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(Updated 23:00)

I managed to escape from the office again today as I’d arranged to meet a fellow photographer who works in the rail industry to give him a guided tour of locations around Marsden on the Trans-pennine rail route through the Colne valley. I’d been meaning to update my library shots and get some pictures for a client from the area, so this was the perfect opportunity – especially as the sun Gods were smiling upon us.

Trevor and I met on the train at Huddersfield for a trip on a line that (as a man of Kent) he’d not travelled on for donkey’s years. Our first port of call was Marsden, the nearest station to the famous Standedge tunnels, where canal and rail occupy almost the same ground under the Pennines. It’s a fantastic photo location but one that will change dramatically over the next few years when the rail route is electrified.

The only downside nowadays is the monotony of the type of trains. Very little freight uses the route as it has such an intensive passenger service. This is Trans-Pennine Express’s core route. Northern Rail used to operate an hourly all-stations Huddersfield-Manchester service but it’s now operated by TPE. This means the line’s almost completely Class 185 operated which is why the introduction of the TPE’s loco-hauled sets is a welcome break from the monotony.

Having trudged up the incline to a spot above the tunnel entrance the sun smiled, and so did we, as we managed to get a range of pictures in decent weather. Here’s an example.

A TPE Class 185 heads East towards Marsden station which is around a quarter of a mile to the right of the picture. The bridge in the foreground’s an aqueduct which has been rebuilt and renewed by Network Rail. It’s been raised to give sufficient clearance to the overhead wires which are due in the next few years when the line between Leeds and Manchester’s electrified.
A zoomed-in shot from the same location, showing the aqueduct in greater detail. The formation to the right carried tracks through the original single track Standedge tunnels which were built in 1848 and 1871. The present double track rail tunnel was built in 1894. Just behind the train is the Huddersfield narrow canal, its tunnel was opened in 1811. You can learn more about these feats of engineering here. If you’re in the area, I’d recommend the tunnel cafĂ© and the museum. Both are in the canal basin and a short walk from Marsden station.

Having exhausted the photographic possibilities we changed locations a couple of times to catch one of the new CAF built trains for Northern which was working empty stock from Preston to Huddersfield.

In doing so we missed one TPE’s new Nova 3 sets as we didn’t know the damned thing was running! Here’s the classic view we’d been heading for.

A Manchester bound TPE service approaches the Standedge tunnel. The canal museum and visitor centre I mentioned earlier is in the old transhipment shed to the right of the picture.

By that time the Pennine weather had changed from favourable to fearsome, with cold air and showers sweeping in from the West, so we adjourned to the Riverhead Brewery Tap pub in Marsden, which is a cracking place to stop for a pint before heading back East

Back in Huddersfield we connected with the loco-hauled TPE set we’d missed earlier. Well it would have been rude not to!

Trevor used it to get to Leeds before heading off to Keighley whilst I stayed on as far as York as I couldn’t resist the opportunity to get shots of the set under the magnificent station roof. Luckily, a late-running Siemens set allowed me some nice juxtaposition and a study in front ends.

All in all it’s not been a bad day and a lot less frustrating than yesterday. There’s some useful shots in the bank and for a client. I’ve had chance to explore locations I’ve not visited for a while and I’ve also been able to act as a tour guide for a friend. What more can you ask for?