Where the hell did September go? One minute we’re chugging slowly and sedately towards the end of summer with some cracking days full of sunshine, the next it’s full-blown autumn, with the leaves already beginning to fall in their droves, encouraged by the torrential rain and gales that have been an on and off feature of the month.
Mind you, it’s not just been the weather that’s stormy. The political scene’s been pretty tempestuous too as Boris Johnson continues to both wreck Britain’s political standing in the world and make the country ungovernable in his hell for leather pursuit of a no-deal Brexit. No lie is to large for the man to tell it and no scenario too preposterous. Parliament’s fought back and now we find ourselves at a political impasse and the party conference season. The bits that I’ve seen of the Tory conference make it look like a cross between the Benny Hill show and a zombie movie, as this little gem shows. Add some batshit crazy speeches from a few clueless Cabinet Ministers and you can’t help but wonder what our European neighbours make of this mess when they see the scandals around Johnson unfold and hear the bonkerssruff coming out of the mouths of his Cabinet. It’s no wonder so many delegates are choosing to take a nap…
Tomorrow October arrives, which is going to be a pretty full-on month. On Wednesday we head off to the Community Rail Awards in Telford for ACoRPs annual celebration of everything that’s best about the sector. It’ll be a busy time but also a great opportunity to catch up with friends and colleagues from around the country. Hopefully the weather will be kind to us as there’s a couple of ‘jollies’ included in the programme.
I’ve had little time for blogging today as (for once) we actually had a lie-in. After a week of getting up at 06:00-07:00 it was lovely not to have the alarm set. Mind you, we also had a fairly late night as a small group of us went to a friends for a meal last night. Forget the Tories Brugges group, this was a chance for a select six of us to get together and have a lovely meal at Tony Allan’s and chat about our own visit to that fair city.
We had a lovely evening and didn’t miss much by getting up late as the morning was (literally) a washout due to the weather. It’s yet another day where it’s chucked it down, so much so that I didn’t get out for my constitutional stroll until this evening when the wet weather abated. Instead, the pair of us have spent most of the day getting on with chores, not exactly the rock and roll lifestyle, but when needs must…
What I have had chance to do is catch up on the news and seen that the much hyped anti HS2 demonstration led by Chris Packham at Euston yesterday failed to set the world on fire. Sure, it got media attention because of Packham but only a few dozen people turned up. Most of the media photos are tightly cropped to show Packham and a couple of demonstrators with him. The ones that zoom out show just how few folk actually bothered coming along. Of course, all this is a sideshow, the main event is up the West Coast Main Line in Manchester where the Tory party conference is happening. What’s not happening is any StopHs2 presence. Several years ago they would have had a stall inside all the party conferences. Now their campaign’s on its uppers they can’t even be bothered to turn up and leaflet outside.
This evening, whilst Dawn’s been cooking some fabulous Indian curry I’ve been busy delving through the picture archives thanks to a friend who jogged my memory . Earlier today Anthony Roberts posted a picture from Belgium showing one of their Cass 62 diesel locos. This set me thinking, and searching my Zenfoilio site. I realised that I’d never added old pictures from some Belgian tours I did back in 2006. I used to have them on my old Fotopic website, but when that went tits-up I lost a lot of caption details as I’d never added it to the original files (which I still have). So this evening has been spent hunting down info to try and rebuld the collection on my Zenfolio site. You can find the resurrected gallery here. Thank God for websites like six bells junction, which has allowed me to check the details of the tour. I’ve more pictures to add but that’s going to have to wait until later in the week. It’s taken me 8 years, another few days won’t make any difference! Here’s a couple of samples. I must admit these pictures have triggered a real bout of nostalgia for what were some wonderful times with a great bunch of people. I used to go over on these tours with a group of friends from the Gloucester area under the banner of Pathfinder railtours. You’ll see some of them in the pictures.
Today I’ve escaped the confines of the Calder Valley to head across the Pennines to Manchester. My plan is to pop in at a charity coffee morning being held at Manchester Piccadilly before working out my itinerary for the rest of the day which will very much depend on the weather. Yes, I know I talk about the weather all the time, but in my work as a photographer it’s a vital component that has enormous influence over what I do – as well as where and when!
I’m hoping to be able to get some library shots of the new trains that are entering service with Northern and Trans-Pennine Express, and possibly an old Pacer or two before they take their final trip to the scrapyard.
Things haven’t got off to a very auspicious start. We’re just pulling out of Stalybridge in the middle of a shower with the wind pushing in low clouds from the West, promising more rain to come. Let’s see how the day goes and where I end up…
The coffee morning at Piccadilly is a great success and a fantastic example of the railway family coming together to help a charity. Cakes were baked by (and the stall staffed by) volunteers from Network Rail, Northern Rail, Transport for Greater Manchester and ACoRP station adopters as well as staff from Macmillan cancer care, the charity funds were being raised for.
I’m on the move again as the weather in Manchester’s living up to its reputation and chucking it down! I’d moved on from Piccadilly to Oxford Rd where, despite the weather, I managed to get several shots of both the CAF units for Northern and one of the TPE mark 5 sets. Sadly, not side by side.
In an effort to escape the rain I headed West, over to Liverpool aboard one of the new 195s. Initially, it was to no avail as the rain was bucketing down when I arrived, but just before I left the skies began to clear and the sun appeared. Whilst I was at the station once of those one chance in a million events occurred. As the rain was so heavy I changed my mind about nipping out of the station to grab a sandwich and decided to get a last couple of shots first. As I walked past passengers waiting for the London train a woman waved at me. At first, I didn’t recognise her. As I got closer I realised it was Annette, an old friend from Southport whom I shared a flat with in when I lived in London’s East End from 1986-96. The pair of us haven’t seen each other for maybe 15 yrs! We ended up chatting for quite a while, catching up on all the events in each others lives over the past few years. It was both a nostalgic and bittersweet experience as it made me think about how many things have happened in my life since the day we picked up the keys to that flat in Bromley-by-Bow back in July 1986…
After bidding adieu to Annette I grabbed that sandwich and a few more pictures before leaping aboard one of Northern Rail’s new 3-car electric trains which was working to Blackpool North via Wigan. This was one of the more numerous 3-car varients of the Class 331 that I’ve spent time photographing around Leeds and the Aire Valley. The unit was packed but I managed to find a tip-up seat in the vestibule that was free. By the time we got to Wigan we’d caught up with the rain and I was treated to several heavy showers. The rain was so torrential that some Wigan – Southport trains were cancelled due to the line flooding. Once I’d managed a few shots of the new trains I caught a Wigan North Western -Stalybridge service made up of avpair of Class 150s, one of which is a unit (107) recently cascaded from London North Western. As you can see, the skies above don’t exactly look inviting…
Having left Wigan and constantly criss-crossed out of weather fronts I pitched up in Manchester to change trains once more. Now I’m heading back across the Pennines aboard a busy commuter service, the 17:19 to Leeds which is worked by Class 156/153 combo. The atmosphere aboard is quite subdued. There’s little sign of people looking forward to the weekend, more a like a lot of knackered folk thinking “thank God it’s Friday!”
Back in Halifax I’m meeting up with Dawn for an evening at the pictures and something the English do far better than dealing with the present or future: nostalgia. We’re off to see the ‘Downton Abbey’ film…
As I predicted, there were angry and heated scenes in Parliament yesterday. MPs from all sides expressed their disgust at the behaviour of Johnson and his Cabinet coterie. Some, like Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman (a man I normally have little time for) didn’t mince their words.
The whole proceedings were a deeply unedifying spectacle, more so because of the complete contempt Johnson and his clique showed for both Parliament, the Judiciary and democracy itself. The final straw for many was Johnson’s clear disdain for female MP’s worries about him stoking up tensions and his attempt to co-opt the spirit of the murdered MP for Batley and Spen, Jo Cox, by claiming enabling Brexit would honour her memory.
I met Jo Cox once. At a station adoption event in Batley. Jo was very kind and helpful to my wife Dawn as it was Dawn’s first public speaking event representing her company, ACoRP. After that meeting I was convinced Jo would have gone far, maybe even all the way to the top. She was clever, witty and engaging. She also knew how to make things happen. What I do know is that Jo would have been horrified by Brexit and done everything she could to fight it. Johnson using her is typical of the man. Let’s face it, he has a long history of using and exploiting women. He has no moral compass whatsoever. The only thing that matters to him is his own ambition.
But don’t fall into the trap of thinking Johnson’s unapologetic performance and stoking of outrage yesterday was accidental. It was anything but. It was straight out of the Steve Bannon playbook, the one Trump keeps under his pillow.
Johnson’s trapped himself. His arrogance, willingness to lie fluently and lack of a moral compass have got him (and us) into this mess. Politically he’s a dead man walking, caught in a mire of his own making. He’s impotent as he has no majority so he’s at the mercy of others. He’s swinging in the wind like the famous picture on that zipwire. The only way out of it that he sees is to trigger an election – hence his behaviour. He wants a vote of no confidence – anything that will trigger an election that he thinks he still has a chance of winning. That’s why he’s trying to goad everyone, be they Labour, women MPs or even his own backbenches.
But remember the old Chinese saying. Revenge is a dish best eaten cold. Johnson’s problem is that others remember that saying too and are happy to give him enough rope…
Since I wrote this Parliament has voted to refuse to suspend itself during the Conservative party conference. It’s yet another humiliation for Johnson, who’s faced with being at the conference or in Parliament. Ten of the former Conservative MP’s Johnson withdrew the whip from voted against the motion. Remember what I said about revenge?
I’ve already had a varied day at home, sorting out a selection of pictures for my show at tonight’s Bradford Railway Circle title “from contraction to expansion” which will take a look at the way the railways fortunes have changed in the last few decades. I’ve also been sorting out pictures for a couple of clients. Now it’s time to escape the house for a few hours as I make my way over to Bradford. After the torrential rain we had yesterday things are brightening up, we’ve actually got some sunshine to keep the dark clouds that are looming company. Hopefully, I might even be able to get a couple of decent pictures on my travels.
It’s not just over the Calder Valley where the weather’s stormy. I’ve just been watching some of the proceedings in the reconvened Parliament. To say that some MPs are angry is an understatement! I expect more thunder and lightning when Johnson appears at the Dispatch Box later this afternoon. This would make great theatre if the consequences for the rest of us weren’t so damned serious. All will be revealed later, but don’t expect Johnson to have any answers, or apologise for breaking the law.
It looks like I made a mistake in trusting the weather forecast, which said we’d be getting some sunshine this afternoon. This was the view as I headed up the hill from home earlier. That’s more rain heading my way, not ‘sunny spells’! I managed to walk to the station without copping for more than coating of drizzle, but this is hardly ideal weather for photography…
As often happens, once I left the valley behind the weather picked up. Not so much in Bradford, but I decided to sally forth to Shipley once more to kill some time and add to my gallery of CAF built Class 331 shots. For once, everything fell right with the two sets in traffic following each other on Skipton services, one from Leeds, the second from Bradford.
Now I’m making a move back to Bradford to try and grab a few more shots before heading out to my show. If only the weather was like Saturday, when for a few brief hours we returned to the summer!
I’ve managed to bag a few library images. Nothing special as the weather wasn’t playing ball, but useful nonetheless. I also had the opportunity to see how recent track alterations have cut out conflicting movements to allow trains from Leeds and Halifax to arrive simultaneously. Now I’m waiting for my train out to Low Moor, the sole station between Bradford and Halifax that reopened in 2017. I’ve never visited before but now I have an excuse as it’s the nearest station to tonight’s venue.
My train to Low Moor is being worked by my old friend, the e-Pacer!
The show seemed to go well, although it’s always slightly unnerving when you have such a famous railway photographer as Brian Morrison in the audience. No-one fell asleep, there were several questions and I was invited back! I’m very lucky that my line of work gets me to places the public don’t normally see, so it’s always great to be able to share the pictures and anecdotes with aporeciative people. Heading back from Low Moor the e-Pacer arrived again to take me back to Halifax and I’m now home and ready to call it a day.
There’s another busy day ahead of ne tomorrow, plus an early start in order to fit everything in. Watch this space…
As if three and a half years of putting up with the brexitshambles wasn’t enough! Seeing our once proud country descend into third-world levels of political incompetence and corruption, whilst our two main political parties are run by a coterie of politicians whom you wouldn’t trust to run a bath, never mind a country. Whoever suspected that such an old democracy as our could fall into this state so easily? But that’s complacency and being stuck in the past for you.
Today, we’ve reached peak shambles. The Supreme Court’s 11 judges have unanimously ruled that Boris Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament was unlawful. In a pitiful response, John accused the judges of trying to ‘frustrate’ Brexit – completely forgetting his own narrative that prorogation was absolutely nothing to do with Brexit in the first place. In just a couple of months in office, Johnson’s lost his first six Commons votes in a row, broken the law by suspending Parliament and misled the monarch. Even some die-hard Tories must be wondering how on earth they managed to back someone who is so clearly incompetent, but then they ignored the fact the man was a proven serial liar in the first place. To make matters worse, another scandal has broken over Johnson’s relationship with a former American model, Jennifer Arcuri, when he was Mayor of London – only this time it’s not just about illicit bedroom activities, this is about real allegations of corruption, the abuse of office and also misuse of taxpayers money. This is serious stuff.
Meanwhile, the cult of Corbyn has made a resurgence at the Labour party conference where it’s like a revival of the 1970s. Composite votes that are passed (or not passed, the result kept changing) by a simple show of hands look bizarre in the 21st century. The end result was to pass a Brexit policy that will have Remainers abandoning the Labour party in droves. It was a classic political stitch-up the hard left have practised for years. This wasn’t the longest suicide-note in history, but it was certainly written on the same paper! Anyone thinking Labour may just have been rediscovering a semblance of looking like a party fit for Government has been sadly disabused.
God only knows what our friends in Europe are thinking as they watch this shit-show unfurl. We’re beginning to make Italy look like a model of political stability. Where the hell is this going to end? I have no idea. I’m no lover of Johnson, but even I didn’t think he could be this politically inept. His predecessor, Teresa May, was the first Prime Minister to be found in contempt of Parliament. Johnson’s gone “hold my beer” and has been found to have illegally shut-down Parliament – and misled the Queen! And, he’s still saying he’ll break the law to crash us out of the EU without a deal on October 31st!
The Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow has announced an immediate recall of Parliament. I suspect we’re going to see a lot of angry scenes in the chamber when it is, and I can’t imagine Johnson having anything other than a very rocky ride from all sides of the house. He won’t be able to cope. His lack of attention to detail and the fact he lies so easily (despite the consequences) will ensure that.
We’ve now gone from a fiddled referendum into the brexitshambles and now added a full-on constitutional clusterfuck to the mix – and no-one looks like they’re in any position to pick up the pieces.
S’cuse the absence from blogging yesterday. The mundane caught up with me and demanded my full attention!
On Friday, as I was ready to make my way back from the National Rail Awards one of our neighbours who was popping in to look after our cat reported that we had a leak from the bathroom into the kitchen. Her timely intervention with towels and basins meant that it did very little damage but it did mean I had to start pulling the bathroom to pieces when I got home. Sod’s law being what it is, the leak was on the most inaccessible tap! To get to it meant stripping out the wash-hand basin. as I had to do that it seemed like a good idea to tackle another job which needed doing and repair the bathroom floor.
With Saturday being such a wonderful day weather-wise I left the bathroom to dry out before tackling the floor. Now, two days later and after much cursing, head-scratching and skinned knuckles, the bathroom’s back together again just in time for Dawn to return from her trip to her brothers this evening.
Now I can get back to the job of editing all the pictures I took last week and on Saturday. The weather since then has been mixed to say the least! Sunday brought torrential rain in the morning, stayed warm and wet through much of the day but then produced to most glorious sunset that was made more special by the mist slowly building in the valley.
Today’s been very different. We had a misty morning, glorious afternoon but a damp and dismal evening. As I sit in my office typing this I can hear the rain dripping off shed roofs and drumming on the cobbles in the alley at the back of the house – as if I haven’t had my fill of dripping water! I suspect I’m going to be a captive of the weather again tomorrow. At least I have an excuse to catch up on paperwork!
To brighten the evening, here’s a small selection of pictures from the past week.
Tomorrow I’ve a presentation to prepare for Wednesday as I’m doing a picture show to Bradford Railway Circle. You can find details here.
Unusually for a Saturday I’m on the rails again today to take advantage if what may be the last sunny day for a while as the forecast has changed. Yesterday was stunning as I made my way back to Yorkshire from London and the National Rail awards. As usual, I didn’t get chance to talk to half of the friends and colleagues I’d hoped to because it’s such a huge event with 1200 people in the room.
I’m hoping to get some of the pictures online this evening. Right now I’m Breadford bound after a slow start due to the valley being shrouded in cloud and mist which only burned off in the past hour. I was down in Sowerby Bridge by 10:00 to photograph the passing of one of West Coast railways charter services which was working from Preston to Scarborough.
My next choice of destination was made up for me by the fact the next two Northern services West were cancelled, so East it was! I caught a York bound train as far as Bradford, then walked across from Interchange to Forster Square. Sadly, the city has lost both its magnificent old train sheds and neither replacement is a showcase to match some of the lovely old Victorian buildings like this, the Midland hotel.
The graceful trainshed and massive goods yards that it fronted have been replaced by a tiny station that’s all the aesthetic appeal of a car crash.
I’ve added some links that show you what the city’s stations used to look like. Here’s Exchange station, that was demolished and replaced by Interchange. There’s a lot more on Bradford’s railways here.
I’ve moved on as far as Shipley where I’ve changed trains. Whilst I’ve been here I’ve noticed this footbridge and the damage caused to it by our outdated insistence on using rock salt for gritting in the winter. Look at the state of this..
From Shipley I stopped briefly at Bingley to pick up a snack for the next leg of my trip, which was out to the pretty little village of Cononley aboard one of what I was hoping to photograph, a new Northern Class 331. On arrival in the village I trekked up the back road towards Skipton that climbs the valley side, allowing some great views across the valley – and the railway. Conditions are perfect today, so this is where I’m spending the next half hour before walking on into Skipton – which is all downhill!
I’m on the homeward leg via Bradford, retracing my earlier route, only this time I’ve stopped off in the city centre for a quick drink and to get some pictures. This is nothing to do with the railways, this is street photography and architecture. Bradford has some beautiful buildings and today, the square by the Town Hall us oacked with people of all ages, colours and religions making the most of the sunshine and the fountains. I’ll add some pictures later. I don’t really know this city at all as I’m normally just passing through, but I’m encouraged to learn more and make some more photographic forays. One thing that does stand out is this is a resolutely working class city nowadays. This isn’t the affluent South-East. The amount of casual ‘effing and jeffing’ you hear is noticable, even if you don’t have delicate ears! Oh, and did I mention the bloke who’d turned up on a horse which had a habit of knocking over and slurping up people’s alcoholic beverages?
I’m now heading home on the voyage of the damned, otherwise known as the 18:02 to Chester. Only it’s 12 minutes late due to the Constabulary having to be called to remove an incontinent drunk earlier. Other passengers who left at Bradford didn’t seem to be in much better state. For some mysterious reason they’ve left the wheelchair area of the train scattered with dog biscuits. Fortunately, two genuinely disabled people (both with white sticks) arrived to take their place. They say love is colour blind. In this case they’re genuinely blind – and a lovely couple they make too – and it shines though…
It’s time to say goodnight folks as I’ve been settled down at home for several hours, getting to grips with editing the pictures. As promised, here’s a couple from the camera..
I’m packed and ready to head down to London for tonight’s National Rail Awards. It’s going to be a long day but it’s always a great event and chance to catch up with friends from the industry as well as watch others get well-deserved awards for their hard work and service to the industry. Dawn is already ‘down South’ so we’re arranging to meet before going to the hotel to prepare. The cufflinks and bow-tie are all packed and the shoes polished, so let’s see how the day goes…
Walking to the station with the Calder Valley hidden beneath a thick layer of cloud.
After walking to Halifax station I’m now on stage 2 of the journey aboard Northern’s 09:00 to Leeds. It’s a York service made up of a 2-car class 158 instead of the more normal 3-car, so it’s already busy. This is one of the unrefurbished sets, which is clean, but tired.
After our reversal at Bradford Bradford Interchange where a sizeable chunk of folk deoarted I extricated myself from the luggage shelf and found a seat before the next horde boarded. We’re already full and standing but we’ve still got two more calls before Leeds including New Pudsey, which is always busy. This coukd get cosy!
The murk that covered the Calder Valley is totally absent here. Instead, we have clear, crisp blue skies without a hint of cloud.
I’m now flying down the East Coast Main Line (ECML) aboard one of LNER’s old Mark 4 sets pushed by a Class 91 locomotive named “Skyfall” after the James Bond film. We’ve just rushed through Retford at 119 mph and show little sign of slacking. I’m in the quiet coach at the back of what’s a very busy train, but here I’ve managed to find an unreserved table to set up my laptop on and crack on with some work. The weather outside remains stunning – I actually wish I was out with the camera, making the most of it!
We’ve just been brought to a stand at Helpston, North of Peterborough, which I assume is because of congestion at the station. We’re on the move again now but crawling along to the next signal at a sedate 17mph. I’ve just taken the time to have a wander through the train to use the loo and noticed how tatty these Mk4 sets are getting now that they’re in their final months of service. The loo door wouldn’t shut properly and the lock was decidedly dodgy. Belay the congestion bit, the Train Manager’s just been on the PA to explain our speed is due to a trespasser on the line. At least our slow speed is giving me time to admire the construction work on the new Werrington dive-under. I must get down here to photograph is properly soon.
We called at Peterborough and now we’re accelerating across the Cambridgeshire Fenlands running 10 minutes late due to the trespass incident. The trip recorder on my phone is showing us hitting 123 mph right now as we flash through Huntingdon, leaving the station a blur…
Despite the dekay I had plenty of time to stroll from Kings Cross to Euston in the glorious sunshine before catching the tube to Waterloo. Now I’m wating for Dawn’s train from Farnham to arrive…
After meeting up with Dawn in Waterloo we nipped down to Roupell St for a ‘swifty’ in a time-warp area of London hidden in the shadows of Waterloo East’s elevated platforms. It’s an area I knew well from my days living in London as a friends mother lived here and I helped redecorate her house.
Moving on we decided it was far too nice a day to be stuck on the tube a minute longer than we had to be so we walked back to Embankment tube via the South Bank and the footbridge at Charing Cross. The view was stunning.
Now we’re in our hotel in Bayswater, getting changed for tonight’s black-tie event.
Having been too busy sorting pictures out at home for a client whilst eyeing the indifferent weather, I’ve finally made it out of the house for a few hours in order to get some exercise – and a few pictures.
Now that the nights are drawing in other photographic oportunities arise, such as dusk or nightime long exposure shots. With that in mind I’m heading over to Bradford for a little while in the hope of capturing some. Let’s see how it goes…
I’m now on a half-empty Northern Rail service bound for York as far as Bradford. This 3 car train will have carried commuters home from Preston to Blackburn and the Lancashire towns before heading across the Pennines. At Bradford it became busy again with folk hwading to Leeds, whilst I decamped to see if there were any decent shots in the offing…
Sadly, things haven’t panned out due to a combination of clear skies and too many Pacers and other trains in the old Northern livery, so I’m moving on to Leeds – and possibly Huddersfield. I’ve got a coupke of usable shots ‘in the can’ as it were, but not what I’m after. This location would be better on a wet winter’s night. I’m heading to Leeds on another of Northern’s unrefurbished Ckass 158s which is almost empty, i’m not used to this as I’m not normally swimming against the tide but caught up with the flow of commuters heading home from Leeds! It certainly makes a pleasent change.
I’m now in Huddersfield and heading home, having finally got the type of picture I wanted. There’s plenty of opportunities at Leeds and I’ll return later when the nights have drawn in more but I need a pitch black night there for what I had in mind. Huddersfield proved to be a challenge due the old-style lighting installed on the platforms which flares quite badly, but other shots and angles were available which worked – as you’ll see later. Right now I’m spending the next half an hour on this!
It’s midnight and time for bed, but I thought I’d add just a couple of pictures from tonight’s foray.