I’m escaping the confines of the Calder Valley today to head back to my old home (London town) for the first time this year. The country is slowly opening up again after so long in slumber due to the pandemic and I’m looking forward to being able to stretch my legs once again and catch up with both people and events. Today’s a beginning.
Apart from the unconscionably early start I really enjoyed the stroll into Halifax to catch the train. Despite the amazing mixture of weather we’ve been having the temperature’s slowly rising bringing far less chilly mornings than we’ve been used to. Admittedly, Halifax is still quiet at the moment.
I was one of only four people waiting for the 06:17 to Chester to arrive but I’ve no doubt that picture will soon change. The three car class 195 that arrived to take us West wasn’t much busier either. Still, it’s been a good journey so far, the Calder valley’s starting to bloom as the trees develop their summer finery whilst early morning mist clings to the hills, making me realise why I’ve always been attracted to this part of the world.
I’ll be blogging throughout the day, so stay with me to see what happens. I’m travelling down to London via the West Coast Main Line (WCML) due to ‘events’ with a certain train builder’s products which will allow me to pass through many old haunts en-route….
Having called at Todmorden and Rochdale my trains begun to fill up with early morning workers on their way to Manchester. There’s a mix between folks wearing suits and those in steel toe-caps but it’s far too early for leisure travellers. Whilst the railway may still be quiet I caught a glimpse of the M62 as we passed Castleton and the motorway is chokka. It’s not that people aren’t travelling, it’s what mode they’re taking…
Manchester was pretty quiet when I arrived. Victoria station wasn’t exactly a hive of activity and my walk across the city centre was hassle-free. Unusually, the vagrant quotient around Piccadilly Gardens was the lowest I’ve seen for some time although I’ve no idea why. Some other things were noticeable by their absence too – big name department stores like Debenhams. It’s quite eerie to see their huge building on Market street empty. What impact the absence of some famous high-street names will have on city-centres is yet to be seen. It’s sometimes easy to forget that there’s still 5 million people on furlough. When they return to work the effect on city centres should be rather interesting…
Manchester Piccadilly has changed since my last visit. The one-way system is much more regimented now and reinforced with barriers. The mezzanine floor remains closed so it’s not as easy to get photos of the concourse. Mind you, a few platforms were empty too, reflecting the lack of hustle and bustle. I was here to catch the 08:05 Avanti West Coast service South. The coach I’m in contains half a dozen people. We’re about to call at Macclesfield, so I’ll be curious to see if any more join us there…
After calling at Macclesfield and Stoke our carriage has gained three more people, but that’s all so I’m looking forward to a hassle free journey South. The weather’s dry but cloudy with little definition in the sky – hardly conducive to photography but I’m hoping it’ll pick up when I get further South. Either way it’s great to be back on a Pendolino again. I’d forgotten how well they ride and the terrific performance as they accelerate. Oh, and let’s not forget the tilt!
Having joined the main line at Colwich Junction we’re now cruising past the old power station at Rugeley at 115mph although you’d never know from the behaviour of the train. I only know because I’ve an app on my phone that measures these things! The power station’s a sad sight nowadays. The turbine hall and chimney’s disappeared, as have the coal trains that used to supply it with fuel. All that remains are the four tall cooling towers although – as the site is being cleared for further use I can’t see them standing for much longer.
We’ve just pulled away from Milton Keynes where dozens of people were waiting to catch this train. We arrived well ahead of time and sat for 8 minutes waiting for our scheduled departure time. I’d toyed with the idea of changing trains here but the weather’s deteriorated. Now we’ve got a steady drumbeat of rain hitting the train so I’ve decided to stay put in the hope things will be better in the capital.
We’ve just passed through Watford Junction, a place where I spent many a bank holiday working on the Network Rail rebuilding and relaying work in 2015. Sadly, the sky’s now as black as Hades so I’ve no idea what to expect when I arrive.
I’m now wandering around Euston in the rain. Something’s missing here, but I can’t quite put my finger on it…
I’m back! Sorry for the gap in the blog, that was because I was having too good a time doing something we’ve not been able to do for ages – meet up with a few friends. Oh, that and the fact we can only do that outdoors and the weather’s bleedin’ freezing! Considering this is mid-May the weather’s anything but spring-like.
London was cold, wet and hardly ideal for getting pictures, although I did manage a few around Euston, documenting how much the area’s changing thanks to the HS2 rail development. Afterwards the day became social as I met up with some old friends for the first time for ages and the four of us caught one of the last traditional High-Speed Trains from St Pancras North (just for old times sake). There was a real feeling of deja vu about the event as the train was busy with railway enthusiasts. Hang on a minute? Weren’t railway enthusiasts condemning these trains when they were first introduced? Oh yes! In those days the HSTs were replacing many locomotive-hauled services so loved by enthusiasts, so the HST’s were labelled ‘plastic’ trains or denigrated as ‘trams’. Now they’re talked about with nostalgia. Talk about the wheel coming full circle!
The four of us travelled up to Nottingham where we had time for a quick pint before splitting up. Two returned to London whilst Merv and I continued North towards home. The weather didn’t get any warmer but at least we swapped rain for watery sunshine! Having bid adieu to Merv in Sheffield I’m on the final leg home from Leeds to Halifax, having had a thoroughly enjoyable day out. We all agreed that being able to meet up with friends in the flesh, enjoy a few beers and plot future adventures has been good for the soul.