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My, It’s a long time since I last did a rolling blog, but as I’m wandering around the West Midlands today before beginning the trek North I thought I’d give one a shot. I’m going to have a look at a few of the rail developments in the area and also try and track down one of the new Class 196 trains which are currently being delivered and are being tested – although that’s always difficult to guarantee I’ll bump into one. What’s easier is some of the station improvements as they’re not on the move!

I’m about to leave the hotel now, it’s a beautiful sunny morning here in Birmingham, so let’s see what happens…


As many station food outlets are closed because of Covid it was lovely to find the one of my favourites was open. I always try and pop into the Centenary Lounge at Birmingham Moor St station when I’m in town.

A slice of normality and nostalgia…

Having been given the heads-up by a friend it doesn’t look like any 196s are out on test this morning, so I’m heading off to get a few shots in the can at Leamington before heading to Coventry to have a look at work on the new station entrance. Here’s my first train of the day…

I have to say, I’m amazed at how many seats Chiltern block off for social distancing compared to other TOCs. In contrast, Scotrail don’t block off any. Instead they rely on passengers to use their own judgement. So do many other TOCs. I’m guessing it’s an Arriva thing.


Typical! Just as I arrive at Leamington Spa two people tip me off that the Class 196 test runs are on! So, after grabbing a couple of library shots before my train arrived I’m now heading for Tyseley to rendezvous with the test workings. Let’s hope I’m lucky..


Ever had one of those days? I arrived at Tyseley in plenty of time to catch some shots around the station before heading down to Shirley and catch the 196 that was out on test. Then W Mids trains started cancelling all the Whitlock End services due to driver shortages, so there was no way I’d make it down the line in time. Too late I had a brainwave. How far was it to walk to the first station on the Stratford route? Google maps said it’d be 20 mins. That meant I’d miss the inbound 196 but I’d be 10 mins ahead of the next run. It was a hot and sweaty walk carrying all my kit in the blazing sun but what the hell – nothing ventured nothing gained! I arrived at Spring Hill station with a few minutes to spare.

As the train pulled in I spotted someone with a similar face mask waving at me. It was Toby, who’d tipped me off earlier and who’d set off on the same mission! We travelled together and got ourselves ready at Whitlock End, where the test run was due to terminate before running back to Tyseley – only the bloody thing never turned up as the run was cancelled!

Crossing our fingers and hoping it was a one-off the pair of us moved up to Shirley ready for the next scheduled test run. That was cancelled too!

At that point we gave up and headed back into Birmingham where we parted. As we passed the depot at Tyseley we could see a 196 being prepped…

Oh, well – another time…

Right now I’m on my way to Wolverhampton to have a look at the new station. At least that can’t fail to run!


I’m on the penultimate leg of my trip home after stopping off to look at Wolverhampton station, which is really coming along. Part of the new building is open now and the old one’s a pile of rubble (as you’ll see later, when I had the pictures I took on my camera). Demolition of the original building clears the way for the next phase of rebuilding which includes extending the tram tracks to the station.

Moving in I headed up to Crewe for a while as you never quite know what might put in an appearance there. As I passed the Arriva maintenance depot I saw a very sad sight. the newly repainted locomotives and coaches that open access operator Grand Central were intending to use on their new Blackpool North – London Euston service. Covid has put paid to that as the company are having to concentrate on the survival of their two existing services (West Riding and Sunderland). I wish them all the best in that as they’ve been a fantastic operation over the past 13 years.

Right now I’m on a late running Transport for Wales service bound for Manchester. Our platform at Crewe was occupied by a Network Rail survey train operated by Colas and a last-minute platform switch added to delays, leaving us 12 minutes late. Luckily, I built in plenty of time to walk between Piccadilly and Victoria so I won’t miss my connection. After 8 days away I’m really looking forward to getting home to see my family – Dawn and our ‘boy’ Jet. Well, if you can still get away with calling a nineteen year old cat a boy! Another thing I’m looking forward to is not having to spend all bloody day wearing a mask – especially when the weather’s been as hot and sticky as today.


Yay! Last train of the trip. I’m on the 20:16 from Manchester Victoria to Sowerby Bridge. My car’s comfortably empty so it’s not a problem – unlike the scenes I saw as I walked across the city centre. Piccadilly Gardens was awash with bored young people just hanging around in the hot weather. As usual, there was no social distancing (and few masks). It seems many young people just can’t be bothered anymore.

Needless to say, I didn’t hang around. At Victoria I was presented with another problem. None of the ticket machines were working so I couldn’t collect my super-cheap advance fare ticket. Fortunately there were no queues at the ticket window and the chap on duty printed it off for me.

The station was quiet, any rush-hour was long past and the day was cooling down, so waiting was rather pleasant and a chance to indulge in a spot of people watching. One elderly be chained bloke with head tattoos rather than hair (and no mask) accompanied by his mate who resembled a living weeble was trying to impress a young cleaner. His invasion of her personal space would have been unacceptable pre-covid. For some bizarre reason (fear? Embarrassment?) she put up with it. I made sure I got in a different carriage to the pair of them…


I’m bringing this rolling blog to a close. I’m home, all my clothes are in the wash as a precaution, I’m showered – and now it’s time to relax. I’ll add one final picture. This was the old Wolverhampton main station building.

Right, goodnight folks!

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