27th September picture of the day…

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The start of a new week and the end of another month has been a mixed sort of day here in the Calder Valley. It was heralded by torrential rain and winds that beat against the bedroom window as the kind of dawn chorus you really don’t want to wake up to. Fortunately, I wasn’t booked to go anywhere and Dawn has the next fortnight off so I was happy to leave the weather to it whilst I pottered around at home, finishing another magazine article and getting my copy and pictures out to the Editor.

As the day progressed the weather grew tired, the wind and rain abated and the two of us nipped out into Halifax to meet Dawn’s parents for coffee for an hour at the magnificent Piece Hall, which was quiet due to the conditions. Caffeine levels topped up we went our separate ways in order to pick up some shopping and attempt to buy petrol. Thankfully, Yorkshire folks are less prone to panics, so whilst the Sainsbury’s garage in the centre of town was busy, it had fuel and the queues only stretched into a handful of cars – which is just as well as we’re driving down to Shropshire for a week in a few days time!

Back at home I retreated into the office to tidy up a few projects I’ve got in hand and finally get around to scanning a handful of old slides that have been sat on my desk for the past few weeks. The welcome return of commissions and work around the country has meant I’ve neglected that mission recently. As much as I wanted to, I can’t see me getting all the pictures scanned by the end of the year, but I won’t be far off. 2022 will certainly see the last ones completed – much to my delight!

I certainly won’t be getting any done tomorrow as we have have the funeral of our dear friend Tony Allan to attend. With everything that’s happened since he died I’ve not had chance to write the blog about him I’d in mind. Hopefully, tomorrow will provide a few more stories that’ll allow me to add other dimensions. Tony was quite private about sections of his much-travelled life and private family life, so I’m hoping to learn more as Dawn and I only knew him for less than 10 of his nearly 70 years. Sad as it will be, we’ll all be adjourning to our local pub afterwards where we’ll celebrate his memory with his own Phoenix brewery beers.

So, I’ll bring this blog to a close with the picture of the day, which is from the slides I’d scanned today. These were a batch that have never seen the light of day since I shot them back in July 1992. Taken in Java, Indonesia, they’d never even been catalogued as part of the film had been damaged soon after they were taken, so they sat in their sleeves waiting for me to get around to doing something with them. It’s taken a while…!

This shot was taken as I was wandering through Yogyakarta towards the end of the day. I love stree photography and always look out for snapshots of life like this. Stallholders whose shops lined the pavement had packed up for the day to allow their places to be taken by the night food markets, one woman found it all too much and decided to ‘power-nap’ by wrapping her head in a newspaper. The effect novel and all a bit Klu Klux Klan but it certainly caught my eye!

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Thank you!

26th September picture of the day…

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The pair of us have had a quiet weekend here at Bigland Towers, albeit it’s been a constructive and sociable one! Most of our time’s been spent pottering around catching up on various chores but we did have a very pleasant few hours with friends in our reopened local pub – the Big 6 Inn. It was chance to catch up with some folks we’ve not seen for ages, but also meet some close friends to swap a few stories and banter. The laughs certainly flew, as did the beers! I was certainly feeling mellow by the time we left.

Today’s been more solitary as Dawn’s been cooking up a storm in the kitchen whilst I’ve been pottering around sorting out odds and sods. One of today’s little tasks what to get our bird feeders cleaned, filled and ready for the winter. I have one outside the bedroom window and two outside my office window. All get plenty of traffic but the seed filled tray outside my office has more traffic than Heathrow! There’s a constant stream of Tits visiting it, as soon as one disappears another arrives. Their favorite seeds are juicy Sunflower seeds so I’ve stocked up with another big bag for the winter and also cleaned and replenished the peanut cage although that doesn’t seem to spark the same interest. I keep meaning to set up the camera to get some pictures of my visitors, but never seem to find the time. Maybe this winter…

Whilst all this was going on the smells wafting upstairs from the kitchen were superb. Dee’s been batch-cooking and producing Lasange in industrial quantities. As well as a large gluten-free one for her parents she’s made two for us that will be portioned out and go in the freezer. Oh, there were a pair of Bakewell Tarts made too – both Gluten free. As if that wasn’t enough Dee also made a Birthday cake for Susan, our neighbour who keeps us supplied with the most gorgeous home-baked bread!

So, the picture of the day is going to be dedicated to Dawn’s cooking. I have to admit, I was never someone with a sweet tooth – I’ve always preferred savoury, but as I’ve got older I have developed a real liking for home-made Bakewell tart and Dee does ’em brilliantly!

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@hs2rebellion: And then there was one…

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Remember this list of Hs2rebellion (what ‘rebellion’? Ed) protection camps from last month? Well, you can scratch another one off the list. The barely functional and utterly pointless Wormwood Scrubs camp is no more!

Having been served with an eviction notice the squatters were ordered to demolish the mess of pallet towers and other structures they’d cluttered a corner of the scrubs with. As they didn’t have the numbers to put up any resistance they’ve meekly complied. Of course, they couldn’t have dome this without the aid of the local authority, who’re having to cart away the mess they’ve made at local taxpayers expense. Here’s a picture from their Facebook live feed today, which was filmed yesterday.

The remains of the Tower they’d spent ages building that was completely useless. I wonder what the Environmental Impact Assessment was for this pile of junk? Here’s how it looked when I visited the site at the end of August.

To say their camp was a complete waste of time is an understatement. They never stopped any of the work that HS2 contractors are undertaking to divert a sewer. You can see what’s actually happening on wormwood scrubs here. Here’s a map showing the extent of the area temporarily affected. The squatters camp was in the hatched area at the top right hand side of the map.

Now the new access road has been completed the temporary track matting is being removed, allowing the grassland to recover. The map also puts into perspective the ridiculous claims of the protesters that HS2 is ‘destroying’ Wormwood Scrubs! Only a tiny area is being hoarded off whilst the sewer’s diverted and once the work’s completed this will be returned to nature.

The removal of the Scrubs camp brings an end to the sorry tale of anti HS2 protests in London which have singularly failed to stop anything – just as they’ve failed everywhere else on the route. Now there’s just one (equally useless) camp left on the Phase 1 route, the laughably named ‘active resistance’ camp near Wendover. This has also been served with an eviction notice and the clearance of this final camp is expected anytime. I suspect that – despite the blustering name, there’ll be little resistance when the bailiffs move in! Sadly, local taxpayers will be left to pick up the bill once more for clearing up the mess left by these faux ‘environmentalists’. The one success Hs2Rebellion and the protesters have had is in wasting millions of pounds of other people’s money, both taxpayers and the mugs who’ve coughed up tens of thousands of pounds to support them through crowdfunding, none of which has never ever been accounted for…

It will be interesting to see how HS2Rebellion spin this latest failure in their fortnightly newsletter, which is due out today. I expect it’ll make ‘Comical Ali seem reasoned and objective!

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Thank you!

23rd September picture of the day…

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It’s a been a very quiet day here in Bigland Towers, mainly because I’ve been the only one here. Dawn’s been back in the Community Rail Network office in Huddersfield, which would normally leave me and the moggie. Only now there’s no moggie, and the place seems very empty without him. Jet always used to wander into my office to see me when I was working if he needed food, or just attention. He was happy to sit on my lap whilst I scanned pictures or typed, only now he’s no longer around and I have to admit I really miss him.

Empty home aside, I’ve been kept busy writing about my ‘3 peaks by rail’ adventure for magazines, so the day’s passed quickly. I did manage to get out for my daily constitutional and pick up some shopping, but then it was back to the grindstone. Not that I’m complaining, I have work, a roof over my head and lots to look forward to – unlike some…

I’m looking forward to having these few days at home before travels commence once again. Next week I have a press trip lined up, a funeral and then a holiday. Well, two out of three ain’t bad – as the old Meatloaf song goes.

So, on to the picture of the day. As I’ve not been scanning any old slides recently I was in a quandry over what to use, so I decided on this, which is a shot of how the urban realm can be vastly improved when we make the decision that people come before cars. This is the recently revamped station forecourt at Doncaster. Previously it had been dominated by the motor vehicle. Previously, most of the area was a car park. Now it’s been transformed into a place for people – and art (hence the railway themed sculptures to the right). If only more of our towns an cities followed suit…

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Thank you!

The latest Public Accounts Committee report on HS2 is out.

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Today the Public Accounts Committee released their latest report on their investigations into the High Speed 2 rail project. It’s not a bad bit of work. It’s (rightly) critical of some aspects of the project but it doesn’t descend into hyperbole in the way the PAC used to do under a previous Chair. Instead, it’s objective and balanced – which is why it’s been almost completely ignored by opponents of HS2 as it’s shot their fox when it comes to their hysterical and exaggerated claims for the ‘true’ cost of HS2. I read it this morning but I’ll spare you having to do the same as I’ll bring you some of the highlights here. However, If you want to read the full report yourself. here’s a link.

Somewhere in there (and on the other side of the M25 already is a tunnel boring machine going great guns digging one of HS2’s Chiltern tunnels.

The summary immediately upsets opponents of HS2 as it points out that the costs of HS2 are nothing like their distorted claims. The report states that;

With construction of Phase one underway and plans for Phase 2a approved by Parliament, the current estimated cost of completing High Speed 2 is between £72–98 billion (2019), an increase from the original budget of £55.7 billion (2015 prices) in 2015. While HS2 Ltd consider these estimates to
be realistic, uncertainty remains, particularly when a substantial amount of the Phase One programme is still to be procured and HS2 Ltd is already reporting cost pressures of £0.8 billion from activities such as delayed enabling works and Euston station. HS2 Ltd is also unable to quantify the final cost of the impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic but estimates the cost to be between £300 million and £400 million at the end of 2020. If these costs are validated, they will need to be covered by the government-retained
contingency of £4.3 billion”

So, yes, there are budget pressures, due to programme delays and Covid, but more of that later as the news isn’t all bad. For example, the project has a huge contingency budget, here’s what the report says on page 4;

“The Phase One budget is £44.6 billion including almost £10 billion of contingency (2019 prices)”

That’s a lot of contingency! Page 5 puts this into an even clearer perspctive.

“HS2 Ltd is now able to provide us with a clearer explanation of costs than we have previously seen in its reporting to Parliament. HS2 Ltd reports that it has spent £11 billion to date and used £0.4 billion of its contingency, out of a total budget of £44.6 billion (2019 prices). The contracting of Phase One civil
construction, worth £15.5 billion, is complete, of which £2.5 billion has been spent. HS2 Ltd considers the budget for Phase One to be realistic and estimates it has completed approximately 20% of the work, having spent 5% of its contingency.”

Yep, only 5% of the “almost £10bn” has been spent, which suggests there’s still a lot of leeway in the budget despite the pandemic and other unexpected events. Contingency is a figure that most commentators (even those who should know better) routinely fail to explain. When you see that “HS2 will cost £100bn” or whatever headline figure’s being bandied around (normally the fictional £106.6bn lazily and wrongly used by the media) it’s important to understand this isn’t the *cost* of HS2, this is the budget for HS2 – and that budget includes a large contingency that’s there as a cushion in case of genuine, unexpected cost increases – such as the ones allocated to Covid – and only a tiny proportion of it (5%) has been used so far.

So, Quite rightly, the report recommends that;

“The Department and HS2 Ltd should set out as part of its future 6-monthly reporting to Parliament, a more comprehensive view on risk to the Phase One cost estimate and the use of contingency” this would include “a clear indication of whether cost pressures have increased, decreased or remained stable since the preceding 6-monthly report”

This makes sense as the budget is often difficult to understand as breakdowns don’t always follow a logical pattern. Another nugget is the news that the projects finances are not all about the contingency being eaten into. Page 11 contains this item;

“HS2 Ltd explained that it had an efficiencies programme and had found savings and opportunities totalling £200 million, mostly for civil construction such as bulk purchase of fencing and security.”

The report is less optimistic about the redevelopment of one of the key parts of the project – Euston station. The PAC’s very critical of the Department of Transport. They say;

“The Department has made little progress on the design and delivery at Euston since we last reported, and we remain concerned that time is running out. Euston station is a key element of the programme both as the London terminus for High Speed 2 and a link to existing railway network and London Underground. We raised concerns over the lack of clarity of the design and delivery of Euston station in our May 2020 report, but the Department has made no final decisions”

This is spot on and a major concern. The DfT (no doubt driven by the Treasury) has been doing everything it can to penny-pinch on Euston, even going as far as to potentially hamstring the future resilience and expansion of services by trying to cut the number of platform from 11 to 10 just to save a few bob in the short-term. As the PAC states;

“the Department has spent the past 15 months looking for cost saving options”

Sadly, this is a familiar pattern and a classic example of knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing. There’s a number of rail schemes where the DfT is constantly delaying them by asking for ‘reviews’ to relook at crucial (but expensive) options. The Trans-Pennine route upgrade (TRU) is yet another example. Rightly, the PAC point out that these delays can cost more money than they save.

The PAC mention another issue, not with the HS2 railway itself, but with the DfT and Government. They say (page 7);

“We are increasingly concerned that the Department and HS2 Ltd do not yet know how they will turn the benefits promised from High Speed 2 into a reality, including what additional investments will be needed or how these will be funded”.

It’s that vision thing again. It’s notoriously difficult to get politicians (and the Civil Service) to plan for the future rather than the electoral cycle. Of course, without HS2 the question is moot. You can read far more about the Euston station question on page 12 of the report.

There’s also a lot of detail on other aspects of the project including training, consultations and complaints, but I’m going to focus mostly on cost. On page 11 the report outlines the fact nearly of the major contracts for Phase 1 are let so costs are known;

“The construction of the main civil engineering components of the programme (such as tunnels and viaducts) is a major undertaking and was a major cause of delays and cost increases at the time of our last report.16 In a letter following our evidence session, HS2 Ltd informed us that it had now contracted all the civil construction work, worth £15.5 billion, of which it had paid approximately £2.5 billion. It told us that the estimated total cost of all four stations for Phase One would be just over £5 billion, and that it had agreed contracts for three of the four stations. As a result, it expected that the construction for
Old Oak Common would be £1.67 billion, Birmingham Curzon Street would be £460 million and Euston would be £2.6 billion. It explained that it had not yet agreed a contract for construction at Birmingham Interchange but expected this to cost in total between £350 million and £500 million. HS2 Ltd told us that it estimated that railway systems will cost a total of £3.6 billion. Although some of the smaller systems contracts, such as the tunnel safety doors, had already been procured, HS2 Ltd told us that railway systems was the part of the programme where most procurement was outstanding. HS2 Ltd told us it
planned to procure the larger systems contracts, such as track, electrification, signalling and controls, in the next two years. HS2 Ltd estimated the cost to purchase the trains (rolling stock) would be around £1.6 billion. The Department and HS2 Ltd told us that they hoped to award the contract to design and build the trains later in 2020″.

This is rather a disappointment for those who like to make up exaggerated numbers for how much they claim HS2 will cost!

Section 16 (page 13) goes into detail on the risks of integrating HS2 with the existing network, a problem that’s bedeviled Crossrail and one everyone’s keen to learn from and not repeat. I won’t go into detail other than to say it’s a problem people are focussed on avoiding.

The report contains an updated schedule of works, which says this;

“HS2 Ltd told us it had a 10-year programme of work for Phase One before services started between 2029 and 2033. It further explained that it planned to complete civil construction between 2020 and 2025; railway systems between 2025 and 2028; and, commissioning, integration, driver training and entering into service between 2028 and 2030”. This suggests that HS2 services will begin well before the extended programme date of 2033.

All in all it’s a good report that’s realistic about the challenges that come from the largest construction project in Europe, one that’s going to take many years to complete., with all the uncertainties and wild-cards the world can throw up in such a period. I only wish others would take such a pragmatic and reasoned approach. But that approach is probably why it’s been widely ignored. Journalists can’t roll out their favourite cliché and call it ‘damning’!

I’ve a favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this blog, 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 to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site – and right now (because of Covid), us freelances appreciate all the help that we can get to aid us in bouncing back from lockdowns. Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Thank you!

Rolling blog. Humberside haunting…

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09:15.

Having sorted out what I need to do today I’m off on another jaunt, this time over to Humberside to get some pictures for a client. I’ll update this blog as I go, right now, it’s time to head to the station and my first train of the day…

10:15.

After a brisk and breathless walk into Halifax I made the 09:53 to Leeds and York by the skin of my teeth. I really should have paid more attention to the clock but got diverted by stuff as usual.

This is another busy train despite it being a three-car Class 195. Here’s how it looks after calling at Bradford Interchange.

10:50.

Oh, bugger…

My connection off Leeds was meant to be LNER’s 10:45 to London Kings Cross but my suspicions were raised as we pulled in and it was nowhere in sight. Sure enough, it had been cancelled due to points failure, leaving my plans completely up the spout. The next service is the 11:15 which is running 20 mins late on its way in due to the same problem.

11:20.

Oh bugger (pt 2)…

The inbound LNER service turned out to be a vintage Class 91 and Mk 4 set short of coach E which has meant it’s quite cosy with two trainloads of people aboard. Needless to say, it’s late leaving as a 10 minute turnaround time was always going to be rather heroic as staff needed to replenish the catering and conduct a crew change.

91111 named ‘For the fallen’ to commemorate all those killed in World War 1.

I’ve given up any idea of trying yo find a seat, so i’ve done a Jeremy Corbyn and sat in a vestibule at the rear of the set by the loco.

We’re finally underway 7 mins late which the Train Manager announced was due to waiting for a path due to congestion. I may have to reassess my plans when we get to Doncaster as these delays are eating into my day…

13:00.

I’m now burbling my way across the flatlands towards the Humberside/Lincs coast aboard a TPE Class 185, one of a pair heading to Cleethorpes. Unlike most of the other trains I’ve travelled on recently this one’s very lightly loaded which is surprising as I thought the seaside was back in vogue. But then – Cleethorpes…

Despite running late I’ve decided to continue as it would be a tragedy to waste the good weather. Even if I can’t get all the pictures I wanted I’ll be able to get some and also recce other locations ready for another day. My stopover at Doncaster was fruitful as it gave me chance to get shots of the redeveloped station forecourt which has been wrested away from the motor car and pedestrianised, making it a much more attractive public space, complete with a water installation and monument to the town’s railway history.

13:55.

Oh, bugger (pt 3).

We’re now sat outside Grimsby Town station waiting (and waiting) to get in, apparently due to signal failure in the area. We’ve had a TPE and East Midlands service pass us heading West, but we remain stuck.

14:30.

Made it – finally, now to take myself and the camera for a walk. As you can see, the weather’s not bad at all…

18:00.

Well, that was an interestin (if sometimes depressing) stroll. After bagging the shots I needed in Cleethorpes I elected to walk back along the coast to Grimsby in order to examine some other photographic locations and explore new territory. The weather was ideal and visibility excellent. Sure enough, I managed to find a couple of new locations for rail shots but it was the tall Italianate tower in Grimsby docks that intrigued. It dominates the skyline and looks far to grand for Grimsby. It’s actually an accumulator tower which was built in 1852 to supply the hydraulic pressure to power dock machinery. I’ll add a link and pctures later.

Trying to get a decent shot of it was a challenge. I spent ages wandering around the old dock area which is a derlict shadow of its former self. To alter the old joke – if Typhoo put the T in Britain, who put the Grim in Grimsby?

The irony? Grimsby is a very Brexity area. Many in the town were conned into believing that if they voted to leave the EU their fishing industry would regain its former glory. It was always a fantasy and now reality is hitting home as the opposite is true. Brexit has been a disaster for UK fishing and that’s before the full impact of restrictions kicks in. In a double irony, a deprived area like Grimsby would have been entitled to EU funding. Will the UK government replace such funding? Will it hell. Grimsby’s yet another victim of the lies that Brexit was built on.

Despite the decline there’s still one smell that pervades the old docks (even if some of it is now a marina) and that’s the smell of fish. It’s omnipresent. The area retains numerous businesses (large and small) that depend on fishing for their existence. Mind you, it’s not just the smell that’s the telltale – it’s the seagulls that gather on their roofs like seawater Vultures.

Despite the decay, I’d have hung around for longer if I’d had time as there’s plenty to photograph if you like architecture (good or bad), urban decay and social commentary. Oh, there’s the railway angle too, although that mirrors the decline of the docks and the English seaside. As it was I ran out of time so I’m now on another quiet TPE service heading back to Doncaster. I could do with at least another day in this neck of the woods but that’s looking unlikely now as plans change. Earlier I was asked if I could double the word count of an article there was ‘no rush’ for – and get it in by Friday at the latest!

19:45.

I’m now on another LNER Azuma heading back to Leeds after a brief interlude at Doncaster. This is quite frustrating as the sky has been absolutely on fire tonight. The sunset has been glorious in colour and intensity but I’ve been in no position to capture a single image. I only hope we get the same tomorrow as I’ll be working from home so can always nip out with the camera.

20:12.

Oh, bugger (pt 5)…

We’ve been stuck outside Leeds station for the past 15 mins without any idea why as the crew have nade no announcements. In frustration, I tweeted LNER. Just as soon as I did (and no doubt by pure coincidence) the Train Manager came on the PA to announce that points failure was blocking platforms 0-6 so a large chunk of the station was unusable. He’d no idea when we might get a path into the station. My connection left at 20:12, so that’s screwed…

20:45.

We finally arrived into Leeds 36 mins late. On the ‘bright’ side, that gave me planty of time to catch the 20:42 to Halifax, especially as it didn’t depart until 20:44. I even had time for a dash to Sainsbury’s to buy some muscle relaxant. I wasn’t going to drink today, but what the hell..

My day’s began and ended the same way, with a points failure. These critical bits of equipment are robust, but when they fail (especially the more crucial switches at busy locations) they really can cause havoc. At hubs like Leeds the ripples can spread right across the network, delaying trains from Scotland to the South-West and all points East – or West. It’s difficult for the lay person to understand just how dependent the railways are on trains running to time and how what can seem sometimes insignificant delays on long-haul services can have such a knock-on effect.

21:10.

We’ve now left Bradford and I’m on the final leg home. Time permitting I’ll round this blog off with a couple of extra pictures later. But first I need a bath! Walking miles carrying a heavy camera bag whilst wearing a black ‘3 Peaks by Rail’ T-shirt in today’s heat wasn’t my brightest idea…

22:40.

Time to call it a day. The bath was lovely – a soak with a glass of red wine just to relax the muscles even more has left me feeling very mellow, but not so mellow that I couldn’t post a last couple of pictures as promised.

It’s not *all* grim in Grimsby. Here’s the 300ft Italianate Dock Tower which was modeled on the tower of Siena’s Palazzo Pubblico in Italy. You can read more about it and why it was built here.

This picture’s of the Victoria Flour Mill and Corporation Bridge. The Grade 2 listed flour mill flourmill, warehouses & offices was built between 1889 & 1906. Constructed out of red brick, it also has blue bricks plus stone & terrracota dressings and welsh slate roofs with stone-coped gables & parapets. It’s magnificent in size and stature.

Corporation Bridge is a Scherzer rolling lift bascule bridge dating from 1925 which was designed by Alfred C. Gardner, docks engineer of the London and North Eastern Railway. You can learn more about it here.

I’ve a favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this blog, 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 to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site – and right now (because of Covid), us freelances appreciate all the help that we can get to aid us in bouncing back from lockdowns. Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Thank you!

20th September picture of the day…

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Ah, the last day of summer – and it wasn’t a bad one weather-wise. Unfortunately, I was stuck in all day catching up on editing the mountain of pictures I’ve been taking these past couple of weeks in order to get them out to clients and/or on my website. My Zenfolio site now hosts two new galleries. One of pictures from the Infrarail/Railtex trade fair (which you can find here) and another from the ‘3 Peaks by Rail’ trip which you can find here. Oh, I’ve also added a variety of rail pictures taken out and about. They’re in various galleries, but if you follow this link to the ‘recent’ section of my website It’ll highlight which galleries they’ve been added to. If I manage to have a sufficiently early start tomorrow and clear the final items I need to have finished I might be able to venture out and make the most of the first day of autumn as the forecast remains good.

I suspect I’ll be tied to home most of the rest of the week as I’ve a couple of articles to pen about the 3 Peaks trip, and there’s a couple of blogs I’d like to get sorted out too. They’re not going to be about any HS2 protests as they’ve collapsed. There’s nothing happening at the moment until the final waste of space that’s the Wendover ‘protection’ camp is evicted, which will be anytime now. As predicted, the MPs debate on September 13th was another pointless exercise that achieved nothing at all. The room, which can hold about 50 MPs wasn’t even full. The ‘usual suspects’ who oppose HS2 trotted out the same tired and trite arguments and spin. All it was was an exercise in grandstanding. It was clear from the comments on some of the anti HS2 Facebook pages that people were expecting far more and were bitterly disappointed. Now it’s over, they’re left with nothing. There’s still going to be plenty to write about with HS2, but that’s going to be about the civil engineering and ecological mitigation work. I’ve several visits lined up for the autumn, so watch this space.

In the meantime, let’s move on to the picture of the day, which comes from my recent travels. Here’s Wasdale Head in Cumbria, the nearest settlement to Scafell Pike. The hotel you see in the bottom of the picture’s the Wasdale Head Inn which was an ideal spot to while away an hour whilst I waited for the 3 Peaks teams to come down from the mountain.

I love the lighting conditions here as you never quite know what you’re going to get! This day it was low cloud and fleeting glimpses of the sun, but that’s the Lake District for you…

I’ve a favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this blog, 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 to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site – and right now (because of Covid), us freelances appreciate all the help that we can get to aid us in bouncing back from lockdowns. Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Thank you!

19th September picture of the day…

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Sorry for the lack of blogging these past few days but both Dawn and I have been enjoying our break in London. The National Rail Awards was a brilliant event that we took some time to come down from. The next day we’d arranged to meet up with a couple of old friends and spent a lovely afternoon in Clapham catching up with them whilst eating and drinking alfresco in balmy weather. The past few days have been incredibly sociable, which has been wonderful. The chance to see people in three dimensions rather than two is something that’s been sadly missing these past 18 months.

On Saturday I took Dawn for a wander around the streets of Central London using my knowledge of the city gained from having lived there for 25 years. That said, I’m amazed at just how much has changed in the past decade since I left. Some quarters are almost unrecognisable whilst others have the levels of building replacement that hasn’t been seen since the war. London’s growing. Upwards…

How sustainable this growth is in a post Brexit world is very much open to question as the strains on the economy are obvious. If you’re willing to work for them the hospitality industry would tear your arm off – but could you afford somewhere to live? The Brexitshambles and the consequences of leaving the single market and customs union are biting – despite what the Government and Brexiters would like to claim.

After our wanderings and enjoying visiting an old haunt on the Thames we headed home. Today we’ve had a lazy one at home, spending the time ensuring we’re Covid safe by sticking all our travel clothes in the wash before relaxing then getting out for a short walk on the moors before a quick visit to one of our favorite pubs – the Moorcock Inn on Norland Moor.

Now ’tis time to relax at home before the start of another busy week. I’ve several articles to write and a load of pictures to edit. I’m expecting to spend most of the week at home, but…The weather forecast is suggesting we may be in for another period of warm weather and sunshine, so I’d be foolish to waste it. Let’s see what happens.

In the meantime, here’s the picture of the day, which was taken yesterday from the South bank of the Thames outside an old haunt, the Founders Arms pub next to The Tate Modern. This pub has a lot of outside seating which offers superb views across the river to a city skyline that’s ever-changing. When I first moved to London only two of those skyscrapers existed and the ‘wobbly bridge’ in the foreground wasn’t even thought of.

I’ve a favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this blog, 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 to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site – and right now (because of Covid), us freelances appreciate all the help that we can get to aid us in bouncing back from lockdowns. Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Thank you!

Off to to the awards…

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One of the welcome signs of a gradual return to normal has been the return of various events that were absent in 2020, which became the year when nothing happened. Last week we had the return of the Railtex/Infrarail trade show, this week we have the return of a different and more prestigious event – the National Rail Awards. OK, I may be slightly biased here as I’ve attended every NRA since 2003 which is when I first became the event photographer. That was quite a daunting task then as I’d only just turned professional and I was shooting on film, which was a lot more challenging. I worked at every awards until (I think) 2017 when I retired from the role and became a VIP guest instead – which is much less stressful and a lot more fun!

Now Dawn and I are on our way to London to attend the resurrected awards I’m really looking forward to the chance to catch up with so many old friends and colleagues whom I’ve not had chance to see (in person) for a while. We’re currently on the train from Leeds and LNER provided this vintage bit of traction to take us there…

I won’t be blogging throughout the day, but I will add a few pictures and an overview later. I’m sure it will be a great event. It sees the return of Nigel Harris’ co-host, the BBC TV News anchor Huw Edwards. We used to have guest presenters every year and the list is a stellar one that includes John Humphreys, Steph McGovern, Nick Owen and many more, but for the past several years Huw’s been such a success he’s become a feature.

Here he is at last night’s awards….

I have to say, it was a great event and so good to see that many familiar faces together again. As usual with the awards the biggest difficulty was getting to talk to everyone you knew. When there’s over 900 people there it’s a challenge! Even so, we really enjoyed ourselves as we had a fantastic table right at the front so had a grandstand view of everything. Personally, I’d always had that as the event photographer but now I didn’t have to keep bobbing up from my seat, camera in hand, every time people came up to collect their awards! Instead I could sit back with a glass of wine and applaud.

This year we had a surprise guest, who I’ll tell you more about later…

Rolling blog. Anglian assignment…

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10:15.

After yesterday’s early start today’s assignment has allowed me the luxury of a later start. I’m currently in transit from Halifax to Leeds aboard the 09:52 to York in order to head to the Fens for a job at a station near Ely.

The 09:52’s worked by a 3-car Class 195 and it’s busy with people having a day out to either Leeds or York. Many of the passengers are either holidaymakers, retired (or both).

Admittedly, when we stopped at New Pudsey the throng of younger shoppers who joined us did take the average age down a notch or two!

In contrast to yesterday’s appalling weather we’ve actually got some blue skies and sunshine today which should make my job easier later. I’ve given myself plenty of time to get there so that I can enjoy a stop or two en-route.

11:00.

I didn’t hang around in Leeds as my next train was already in and a short stroll over the footbridge soon deposited me on LNER’s 10:45 Leeds to London Kings Cross which is worked by a 9-car ‘Azuma’. I made a beeline for the rear coach (A) which is normally quieter. It contained a few reservations but I’d no problem finding a free bay of four where I’ve set up the ‘mobile office’ for the trip to Peterborough. Heading down the East coast feels like a novelty as most of my recent journeys South have been down my old stamping ground of the West Coast or even Midland main lines. This journey’s going to be easy, so I’ll be back soon after I’ve cracked on with some work..

12:40.

I’m changing trains again. This time at another old haunt. Back in the late 1980’s when I was living in London I was up here nearly every other weekend, spending time with a friend from my Southport days. The station’s changed dramatically since then, having gained three through platforms, had others extended and lost one South-facing bay which was too short for the new Thameslink fleet.

The island platform to the left is new as is the platform face to the very right which was built up to the Up fast line to London. The footbridges at either end of the platforms have been extended too. Mind you, it’s not just the station that’s changed. The Crescent Rd wagon repair shops are gone, as are many of the sidings as the locomotive fleet’s shrunk. Nene sidings to the South are too small for 12 car trains so new ones have been laid to the North-East. New England yard is deserted but the nearby GBRf depot has grown. I really should do a ‘down memory lane’ blog on the area…

12:50.

I’m now en-route to Ely on a 2-car East Midlands Railway Class 170 cascaded from West Midlands services. Working to Norwich, the trains reasonably loaded and even has the luxury of a trolley service!

I always enjoy a trip across the flatlands of the fens. Maybe it’s because it’s such a contrast to where I live now – high up on the side of the Calder Valley in the Pennines. It’s the ‘big skies’ that catch my attention as well as the acres of vegetable and cereal crops.

13:45.

I’m now taking a break in the Cathedral town of Ely where there’s sunshine occasionally interrupted by cloud. The peace is sometimes interrupted by massive military transport aircraft or pairs of fighter jets lazily circling around the city.

Ely is yet another location that’s changed in recent years due to the introduction of new train fleets. Anglia’s replaced their entire diesel fleet with Stadler built bi-modes. Great Northern have disposed of my old favourites (the BR built Class 365s) in favour of Bombardier built Class 387s, East Midlands now have cascaded Class 170s, leaving Cross-Country with the only original fleet since it took over Stansted Airport services from Central trains back in 2007.

Even so, it’s a bit of a surprise to see ex-Gatwick Express stock in its distinctive red livery working GN services to/from Kings Lynn!

18:30.

I’m heading home again after attending a lovely event at pretty Downham Market station, where various groups celebrated the achievements of the local community in improving and tending the station. The WI have been looking after maintaining the gardens and planters on the platforms whilst pupils from Downham Market Academy and Athena Sith Form College have designed and produced flower themed artwork which has been fixed to platform fencing (pictures later). The station cafe was kept open especially to cater for guests which was also nice touch. The whole event was well patronised with between 30-40 people attending.

Now I’m on a Cross-Country service from Ely heading back to Peterborough then Northwards to home via a couple of changes.

20:32.

Well, that was a bonus! I made a very tight connection at Peterborough that’s slashed my journey home by 30 mins as I no longer had to change twice. Instead I made an LNER service to Skipton that’s delivered me to Leeds. In a double bonus it gave me enough uninterrupted time to get the pictures I’d taken at Downham Market edited and resized all ready to send off tonight when I get home!

Now all I have to do is relax on the final train home, which is yet another Northern Class 195, which is keeping company with this interloper at Leeds …

Tomorrow’s going to be a rather different day. I’m back in London again but this time it’s for pleasure, not business. Dawn and I are attending the National Rail Awards as guests of an old friend, so there’ll be no rolling blog tomorrow – although there might be a few pictures. Right now, it’s time to pack the Tuxedo which hasn’t seen the light of day since the last NRA back in 2019. Thankfully, it still fits!

I’ve a favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this blog, 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 to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site – and right now (because of Covid), us freelances appreciate all the help that we can get to aid us in bouncing back from lockdowns. Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Thank you!