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06:25.

I’m preparing for another day on the ACoRP judging trail, but today’s a little different. Due to my fellow judge having other commitments I’m flying solo today, plus, there’s only two stations to visit, one in Derbyshire and one in Greater Manchester, so (in theory) I should be finished by early afternoon. The weather forecast isn’t looking as bleak either, so it should be an enjoyable day. I know both the stations, I’m visiting, but only one has put themselves forward for judging before. Let’s see how the day goes and if punctuality improves as I’m intending setting off on exactly the same train as before, the 08:23 from Sowerby Bridge…

08:13.

I’m already on the move. The weather’s dry with a mix of blue skies and cloud, even if it’s not particularly warm. I left home slightly earlier this morning which meant I arrived at Sowerby Bridge in time to catch a slightly earlier train, the 08:06 to Southport. It’s being worked by a part-refurbished Class 156. You can tell it’s the holiday season by just how empty it is – and this is when we’re waiting to leave Todmorden!

I’ve bagged a table bay of four in order to sit back and enjoy a relaxing trip across the Pennines, knowing that I’ve banked some time.09:18.After strolling across Manchester city centre from Victoria to Piccadilly I’ve decided to spend some of the time I banked by breaking my journey to Grindleford along the way, so I’m now on an earlier train along the route, the 09:20 to New Mills, which is worked by one of the soon to be withdrawn Class 142 Pacers. Sights like this will be a thing of the past by the end of the year.

The ride out of Piccadilly is like a bucking bronco as the Pacer heaves its way across the complex network of switches and crossings that make up the station throat.If you start seeing more than the usual amount of typos from here in, blame trying to blog on a phone touchscreen when bouncing along on a Pacer!

10:02.

I’ve stopped off to look around and admire Marple station. It’s claim to fame is that Marple was the inspiration for naming one of Agatha Christie’s famous detectives, Miss Marple. The local station friends group have provided information boards on the platforms to inform passengers of how the sleuth came to be named after the town. There’s other attractive posters and a selection of planters too.

11:37.

Grindleford visited, I’m now heading back West along the Hope Valley line which is celebrating it’s 125th anniversary this year. Things are on the up. Since the new timetable was introduced in May, services have doubled to hourly from two hourly, making the area much more accessible to people who want to leave their cars at home and use public transport. It’s a huge boost, as is the next step – doubling the size of the trains from two car to four. This entails extending the platforms at stations like Grindleford by reinstating what was once there, or by building new. Of course, this flies in the face of the moaners who always whinge about how the North never sees any investment in its public transport as all the money goes ‘down South’…

Talking of investment, on my way back I changed trains at Romily to catch the train behind which was working off the New Mills branch. About a year ago I wrote about how the local services centred on Romily were a great place to catch pairs of Pacers. Things have already changed with more Class 150s creeping in. The working following behind us was a 142/150 lash-up, so if you’re a fan of Pacers (and some folk are) you’d better get a move on as in a few months there’s going to be a mass extinction event around Manchester and the North-West.

13:25.

It was all going soooo well. Then I hit the congested Oxford Rd corridor, which is even more congested now Virgin Pendolino’s are diverted this was due to Acton Grange Jn on the West Coast being shut for rebuilding! My train from Oxford Rd to Irlam’s been trapped in a bay by late running services and didn’t escape until it was 9 mins late. I’m now plodding along on another Northern Class 150 to my final appointment for today: Irlam.

17:25.

S’cuse the gap in blogging. I’ve been busy with the camera and sorting stuff out on email. After leaving the Irlam station adopters I headed back into Manchester just in time to get caught in a torrential downpour. I mean, I know Manchester has a reputation for being wet, but this was impressive due to the intensity and the size of the drops.

My plan had been to spend an hour getting some pictures of Virgin Trains Pendolinos being diverted through the Oxford Rd corridor I mentioned earlier. Here’s one. My frustration was the Pendolinos that passed were in the old livery rather than the new, which would’ve updated the pictures.

DG330048crop

Of course, there were other attractions too, such as this DRS Class 88 working an intermodal service.

DG330067crop

I took my leave of Manchester shortly afterwards, conscious of more threatening skies. En-route I became aware that the threat was no-shit serious when I saw TV news showing a Derbyshire dam in danger of collapse in an area I’d travelled through earlier. Wake up folks, man-made global-warming is real…

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