The skies are blue today so I’m making a bid for freedom from the office to head out hunting some of the new Northern trains that were introduced into public service from Monday. The Class 331 electrics have spread their wings from operating solely on the Leeds to Doncaster route. They’re now on diagrams between Leeds, Bradford and the Aire Valley services. They’re also out and about on the Blackpool North to Liverpool Lime St route, displacing more old diesel units to allow more Pacers to head to the scrapyard. I’ll update this blog throughout the day. Let’s see what happens and where I get to…
I thought I was being clever by hitching a lift into Huddersfield with Dawn, but it’s all gone pear-shaped at the station. Track-circuit failures at both East and West mean hardly anything is running to time. Delays are averaging 15-20m. My next service to Leeds is 16m late, leaving me lots of time to admire Northern’s shiny new Class 195s which are stood idle in the sidings.
My trip to Leeds was spent standing in a vestibule aboard a 3-car Class 185, so no change there then! The service was busy with holiday makers including a gaggle of middle-aged professional women who were already on the Prosecco, but they were very well behaved, so no bother to anyone. Once in the city I caught the first available train for the Aire valley, the 11:12 to Bradford Forster Square which is worked by a refurbished Class 333. In fact it’s the first of the class – 001!
My first port of call was the new station at Kirkstall Forge, a brownfield site that’s rapidly redeveloped. As I stand here all I can hear is the clanking of catapillar tracks and the warning horns of earthmovers. A new 7-storey office block immediately outside the station’s already open for business.
I’ve moved on a couple of times now, first tk Shipley, then down to Bradford Forster Square for a brief photographic stop before returning to Shipley, which is a rare beast on the UK rail network. It’s a station built in the middle of a triangle of railway lines that has platforms on each side of the triangle. Only one other exists, at Earlestown on Merseyside. There did used to be several others, including nearby Queensbury, but they’re long gone. Shipley still has 5 out of the original 6 platforms as well as an old Midkand Railway station building which contains a booking office and traincrew depot.
After several stops heading West up the Aire valley I’ve pitched up in pretty Skipton for lunch.
Frustratingly, the only Class 331’s I’ve found are all here – laid up in the carriage sidings! On the bright side, I’ve git several decent library/client shots and recorded the imminent demise of the trains Northern will be surrendering – the BR built Class 321/322s, known affectionately as “dusty bins”.
They have an interesting history. The Class 321/9 fleet were bought by the local passenger transport Executive especially for Aire Valley and Leeds-Doncaster services. The 322/4s have had a peripatetic existence. Originally built for ‘Stansted Express’ services from Liverpool St in London, they were displaced and ended up in Scotland where they worked Edinburgh – North Berwick services. Displaced once again, they ended ul being transferred to Leeds Neville Hill depotto strengthen services in the Aire Valley.
Having ‘acquired’ copies of the two diagrams Class 331s are meant to be operating it’s clear that there are a few issues. I’ve found one running at Skipton but that’s on a training run to Shipley, which is where I’m going to head for as almost everything passes through there!
Despite my best efforts 331s in traffic proved elusive. Services were’t performing well today so it was very muuch the luck of the draw. However, my luck did hold at Keighley where I managed an interesting historical comparison which I’ll upload this evening. As it’s Friday I called it a day early and headed into Bradford. A sprint between the two stations meant I made the 16:30 from Interchange back to my starting point in Huddersfield. It’s worked by one of the Pacers formerly based up at Heaton in Newcastle, so I’ve a vintage ride home and chance to enjoy one of these old workhorses before it takes its final trip to the scrapyard.