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07:20.

Apologies for the recent gap in blogging, it’s not that I’ve not been up to anything so had nothing to say (exactly the opposite) it’s simply been a case of not having enough time in a day to fit everything in!

This weeks will be a little different as I’m off on my travels and flying solo so the focus is rather different. I’m spending the next few nights based in Ipswich in order to explore and record the changing rail scene across East Anglia and Essex. Right now I’m on the 07:00 from Sowerby Bridge to Manchester Victoria in order to head South to my old home town. London. Despite the gradual easing of Covid restrictions this train’s still quiet. It’s a three-car 153/158 lash-up and there’s only half a dozen of us in the front 153 right now. I’ll be interested to see how busy it is by Manchester…

The glorious weather we’ve had over the past few days has faded away this morning, leaving us with low cloud and spots of rain. Even so, the temperatures good and ideal for lugging around a camera bag and rucsac – which is just as well!

I’ll be blogging throughout the day, so feel free to keep popping in to see what (and where) I get up to…

07:45.

Due to problems with another service my train’s become an “all shacks” service to Manchester, stopping everywhere en-route, which means we’re filling up. My car’s still less than half-full, but it’s clear passenger numbers are gradually recovering from the lockdown nadir. The weather here in Lancashire’s sunnier than t’other side of the Pennines, so I’m hoping for for a pleasant stroll across Manchester later.

09:30

And relax…! I’m currently back in familiar territory, speeding South on 1A16, Avanti West Coast’s 08:55 Manchester Piccadilly – Euston Pendolino. My earlier arrival at Manchester Victoria saw me do a double take as I passed throught the station. One of Northern’s new CAF built units was sitting in platform 2, one of the pair of East facing bays. It was only when I noticed the number that I realised something unusual. It was one of their electric sets, not diesel. This is the first time I’ve seen an EMU in the bays as currently (pardon the pun) there’s nowhere for them to run to as the wires don’t extend futher East than the station environs. At the moment Network Rail are extending electrification as far as Stalybridge as part of the trans-pennine route upgrade (TRU) so in a few years time this will be a common sight, but not right now…

10:15.

My Pendolino’s eating up the miles to Euston, but there’s one noticeable thing missing at the lineside. As we passed Rugeley the four giant cooling towers from the old coal fired power station have vanished. They were demolished using explosives over the weekend.

10:24.

Our journey South was going really well until Rugby when running early turned into a 6 minute deficit after being checked twice, first at Trent Valley Junction, then in the station where a sister Pendolino pulled up alongside us. Having cleared Hillmorton Junction we’re picking up speed again although I’ve no idea what the problem was as there’s been no announcements to explain.

12:15.

Our slightly late arrival at Euston didn’t disrupt my plans as I was in no hurry. I paused long enough to get shots of the remains of the old Euston signalbox which has been flattened to make way for HS2, then strolled to Euston Square tube station to catch the train to Liverpool St. The capital’s still eerily quiet due to the absence of foreign tourists and office workers still on furlough, but life’s returning. My tube train was certainly busy.

Liverpool St mainline station was far busier than last time I was here too although the mezzanine remained closed. What’s also changed is the trains. New stock from Stadler and Bombardier mixed with older BR built vehicles which still hold on despite the fact they should have retired by now. Class 315s can still be found working some TfL rail services to Shenfield and my train (the 12:02 to Ipswich) was formed of three elderly (if refurbished) Class 321s!

19:30.

Apologies for the gap but I’ve been busy travelling and my phone’s decided it doesn’t like the East Angular phone networks so it’s refused to connect to anything! I’m currently on a train to Felixstowe so I’m using the train wifi to pen a few words.

I’ve certainly had an eventful day so far and the weather’s been absolutely glorious which has been great for pictures. I made my way up to Ipswich in fits and starts, stopping off at several stations on the way in order to build up a haul of pictures and also see what’s changed since I was last spending time on the Great Eastern Main Line. I must admit that I was surprised to find so many of the old BR built trains still working. The Class 321 ‘Dusty Bins’ are still the mainstay of the electric services to places like Clacton, Southend and Ipswich, although I did see some of the new Bombardier Class 720s in service and several more out on test. Of course the 720s have been delivered late and Covid has hammered the driver training schedule, so it’s hardly surprising the 321s are soldiering on. They’ve never really liked them as a train, the internal layout was inferior to many other regional trains but Greater Anglia have done a good job with refurbishing the units to make ’em bearable. Even so, I’m looking forward to trying out the new Class 720s. Right now I’m on one of GA’s other bew fleets, the Stadler built Class 755s. I think that they’re an excellent train from a passengers perspective. The internal layout is very good with a variety of airline seats and table bays of four, plus they have wifi and plug sockets (although the sorkets are kaput on the set I’m on). They also go like rockets!

22:00.

I’ve managed to get my phone to agree to communicate with the local phone networks, so I’m typing this last update from my hotel room in Ipswich using it tethered to my laptop. The hotel want to charge me for the pleasure of using their wifi but my phone contract has such a huge monthly data allowance there’s no need. Day 1 of the adventure’s been fun. The weather’s been superb and I’ve really enjoyed being able to explore old haunts again as well as get a good selection of pictures. Editing them will keep me busy over the next few evenings but that’s not a problem as Ipswich isn’t exactly ‘sin city’. Most of the town centre seems to close-down after 18:00 but that hardly surprising as the place is deserted. I’m trying to remember if it was always this way, and I suspect it was. There’s what looks like a couple of reasonable pubs but otherwise the only things that are open after 19:00 seem to be take-aways and kebab shops. Like a lot of English towns nowadays, there doesn’t seem to be many people living in the centre so once the shops shut it’s game over. Either way, it’s not a problem for me as I’m not here looking for nightlife. There is one thing I wouldn’t mind finding whilst I’m here. Apparently, there’s a replica Noah’s ark that’s been impounded in the docks as it’s not seaworthy. No, seriously! Take a look!

Ark’s aside, tomorrow’s going to be another busy day, so I’ll leave you with a couple of pictures from today before signing off…

Here’s a pair of the new 5-car Class 720’s built by Bombardier approaching Colchester whilst working 1N47, the 16:05 Clacton-on-Sea to London Liverpool Street

Also at Colchester were this contrasting pair…

One of the new Stadler built 12-car units that have replaced loco-hauled sets on London – Norwich Intercity workings passes an old BR built Class 321 eking out its final days working services between Clacton and London. These particular trains (321/4) were originally built for working out of London Euston to Northampton and Birmingham before being cascaded to Anglia services.

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