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I’ve begun my migration South as Dawn and I, plus her parents, are going to be staying in Surrey over Christmas in order to be near her brother and his young family. But first I have a few things to do in London, including catching up with old friends.

Right now I’m en-route to Manchester aboard the 09:06 from Sowerby Bridge to Wigan Wallgate. Once upon a time you could have expected this service to have been worked by a Pacer. Today it’s been allocated a refurbished 2-car Class 158, number 901 – one of the batch bought by the West Yorkshire PTE back in the 1990s. There’s an odd mix internally as it’s fitted with the new seats that are in the Class 195s but it retains the old (battered) tables and there’s no USB sockets or wifi.

As we traverse the Pennines I’m noticing that a lot more of the 2-car Class 195s are in passenger service now. Before the timetable change they were quite rare. It’s a positive change for passengers and I’m looking forward to seeing the full fleet in service next year.


We’ve now crossed over the border ino Lancashire where the weather’s just as dull, wet and miserable as it was in the Calder Valley – but at least it’s mild!


This train’s an ‘all shacks’ stopper which is full and standing now it’s left Rochdale. There’s a mix of Christmas shoppers heading into the city and others like me who’re heading South for the holiday.


My train was late into Victoria as we played the usual game of sitting outside waiting for a through platform to become free. Oh, for the days before British Rail flogged off half the station to build an arena and demolished so many platforms!

I’m now taking my first trip on Avanti West Coast. There’s not a huge amount of difference at this stage in the game. The Pendolino’s look almost exactly the same internally apart from a few notices. The staff are their usual friendly and efficient selves, they just make slightly different announcements. The wifi screen’s changed, but beyond that…

I’m currently speeding through Warwickshire at a rate of knots past a very damp and flooded landscape. Everywhere I look I can see fields under water, whilst rivulets of rain cascade down the window, holding their own little races as they go. Inside the train it’s warm and cosy, leaving me feeling sorry for the sodden sheep I’ve just seen by the lineside. Right now we’re flying through Rugby, a town and station I know well having spent a lot of time here in the past – including a Xmas and Boxing Day trackside many years ago, working on the infamous Rugby blockade which was part of the West Coast upgrade!


We’ve just paralleled the M1 motorway, which is easy to see because it resembles a linear raincloud due to all the spray that’s being thrown up by the vehicles on it. I’m glad I’m on a train instead!


The rain’s finally abated as we speed past flooded fields around Ledburn and the location of the great train robbery, an event sanitised in popular culture but never forgotten by those members of the railway family because of what happened to the train’s driver, Jack Mills, which was always glossed over in the myths around the event and subsequent films.


We’ve just passed Wembley yard, where the presence of a Grand Central class 180 has completely thrown me!