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08:00.

I’m up, packed and raring to go! My PPE’s been checked along with the camera kit, so I’m all prepared for whatever the day brings. So far, it’s brought brilliant weather! This is predicted to be the hottest day of the year so far with wall to wall sunshine. Dawn’s very kindly dropping me off at the station to save the long hike carrying all my stuff which means I don’t start the day a hot, sweaty mess (always a bonus). So, stay with me and see how the day unfolds. My opening part of the trip involves getting the train from Halifax to Leeds – for the very first time this year…

09:00.

The absence of road traffic despite the easing of lockdown and return of schools meant I was at the station in time to catch an earlier (late running) train to Leeds. I’m now one of only three people in the rear of a pair of Class 195s.

That said, there are significantly more people around compared to my travels last year and the amount of vehicles in the car park tells a tale.

Whilst the crew changed ends during our reversal at Bradford Interchange I had time to grab a couple of shots before swapping sets. I was pleasently surprised to find far more folk travelling in the rear unit. Nothing like pre-pandemic levels but even so it was a good portent for the way numbers should recover as restrictions are eased. We stopped once en-route to Leeds at New Pudsey, which was deserted, hardly surprising as it’s a park and ride/shopping centre station. I can’t see traffic returning whilst retail outlets remain closed.

11:45.

At Leeds I had time to explore and get some pictures before meeting my RAIL colleague Paul Stephen ready to catch the 10:49 to Carlisle. As you can see, life’s slowly returning…

We’re now enjoying the scenery and cloudless skies in the Aire valley as our three car Class 158 trundles North.

11:58.

Uh, Oh…

It’s all gone a bit ‘Pete Tong’. We’d just passed Settle Junction and joined the Settle and Carlisle line when we came to an abrupt halt. The Conductor rushing through the train to the cab wasn’t instilling confidence. We’ve now incurred a 12 minute delay to an ‘incident’ on the line. I’m betting said incident was a sheep!*

*Afterwards, a conversation with the Conductor revealed that a signal had returned to danger just at the moment our train passed it, so the TPWS kicked in and brought us to a stand. So for once, the sheep were innocent.

18:30.

Well, that was an interesting day! Our late train didn’t delay us much and we met the other two members of our party without problem. The weather at Ribblehead was superb and ideal for exploring the structure which we did thanks to Network Rail’s engineering team who escorted us around the piers and explained the work that was almost complete. Normally, the only way you’d get to see it from this angle would be if you’re a drone!

You’ll be able to read about our explorations of the viaduct in a forthcoming print or digital edition of RAIL, so I’m not going to spoil the article by revealing any more here.

Heading back we got a lift back to Settle with one of our party who’d driven, which gave us chance to have a bite to eat and soak up the sun at the station before Mark Rand very kindly gave us a tour of his home – which is in the old railway water tower! I suppose I’m a bit of a fan of water towers (after all – Dawn works in another one!) but this is the first that I’ve seen converted into an exceptional home. You can see the water tower in the background of this picture of Settle station taken earlier. There’s a lot worse places to sit and eat a sandwich…

Taking our leave, Paul Stephen and I caught the 16:35 back to Leeds where we parted company. He returned to Nottingham whilst I hung around long enough to grab a few pictures in the wonderful evening sunlight. There’s no doubt passenger numbers are starting to pick up again but getting back to pre-Covid levels could be a slog. Even so, it’s lovely to be out and about again now that the rules are relaxing. Yes, of course I’m still working from home as often as I can, but no-one is going to bring one of the most famous railway viaducts in the UK to me – are they? Here’s one of my shots showing the lovely light at Leeds.

19:12

I’m currently on the 18:42 Leeds – Manchester Victoria which is about 30-40% full. Looking up at the information screen by the vestibule I’m informed the temperature’s hit 21 degrees C today – glorious! During our reversal at Bradford we lost a lot of commuters but picked up some younger leisure travellers as a replacement, the same happened at Low Moor and again when I left the train at Halifax where my ‘chauffeur’ was waiting to whisk me home.

I’ve had a long day but a thoroughly enjoyable one after so many ‘Groundhog days’. Here’s to many more of them as the world returns to normal – bit by bit…

I’ve a favour to ask…
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