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09:30.

Sorry for the delay in starting this. I’ve been up since 06:00 and I was on my first train from Ipswich by 07:34 – and in glorious weather too. Then it all went a bit “Pete Tong”. I plugged in my laptop on the train so I could check in with the world (and write this), then spent the entire trip to Saxmundham battling against the ‘blue screen of death’ as my laptop flashed up the dreaded words ‘exception error’. Fortunatly I managed to reset it (eventually). Not for the first time my machine doesn’t chew automatic updates properly when they’re swallowed from indifferent wifi on the move…

Still, I can breathe easy for now as I backed up all my data and pictures as a precaution. For now I’m going to be blogging via my phone, so please excuse fat finger syndrome and a spull-chucker that thinks I’m wanting to write in Serbo-Croat!

I’m currently kicking my heels between trains at the pretty and well-heeled market town of Saxmundam. You can tell it’s well-heeled as it boasts two new supermarkets and one of ’em is a Waitrose.

The station’s looking good too. The Lowestoft bound platforms been renovated, the old station building’s undergoing a rebuild and the car-park’s recently been extended. The large flower bed that separates it from the Ipswich bound platform’s been replanted by the local community group and includes a new herb garden. All that’s needed now is for passengers to return in numbers.

I’ve traversed the East Suffolk line many times. In fact I wrote about it last September as part of my bi-annual Round Britain rover for RAIL magazine last September but I’ve never had time to stop off at any of the stations and towns en-route. Today’s an opportunity to make up for that omission.

Despite much recent modernisation, with resignalling and new track the East Suffolk line still takes me back to the old days as there’s long lengths of the old 60ft sections of jointed bull-head rail to provide the famous ‘clickety-click’ sound of classic rail travel. I’ve heard a sound I’ve not come across for years, the bang as a fishplate copes with the rails expanding in the hot sun!

11:15.

I backtracked from Saxmundham in order to spend some time at the excellent station restoration project at Wickham Market. The old two-storey station building has undergone a massive make-over to convert it into a cafe and meeting rooms for the benefit of the local community. The scheme was funded from several different sources including Community Rail Network and the Railway Heritage trust who helped with the replacement of the station canopy. The lovely volunteer behind the cafe counter told me that the copies of the original spandrels were made by Hargreaves in Sowerby Bridge – talk about a small world!

Right now I’m on the 10:42 train making my way North towards Lowestoft, maybe I’ll stop off on the way if something else looks enticing…

I’m travelling in the front car of a three car Class 755 but this set (329) seems noticeably noisier than others I’ve travelled on due to vibration from the engine compartment. Even so, it’s head and shoulders in quality above the old 2-car Class 156s it’s replaced!

13:15.

I’m now on my way to Norwich after a short layover in Lowestoft which I used to buy some extra summer clothes from M&S. With not having been able to visit Thailand recently my old multi pocketed shorts (ideal for travelling) had to be condemned! I’ve now found a half-decent replacement. But God, Lowestoft was depressing. I’ve visited the place many times. I’ve even stayed overnight, which was ‘fun’ but each time I return it seems to get worse. I stood out like a sore thumb for all these reasons: I’m not clincally obese. I’m not festooned with ‘tats and I don’t use either a walking stick, Zimmer frame or mobility scooter! Honestly, the place was like God’s waiting room.

16:45.

I took a break in Norwich in order to have coffee with an old friend. Dominic and his family moved up here from Chelmsford at the end of last year, so it was good to be able to catchup after so long – even briefly. The town doesn’t seem to have changed much. Whilst I waited outside the station I watched an armed police team and the transport police detain one youth whilst a gaggle of women in matching hen party T-shirts stood smoking and spilling booze. On a Wednesday? Must be some hen do!

Right now I’m en-route to the broads again to recreate some photographic favourites featuring the new trains rather then the elderly and wheezing class 156s…

19:20.

I’m on the rails again after getting the picture that I wanted of one of the new Class 755 trains crossing the swing bridge at Reedham. Sadly, I only got one bite of the cherry due to the rail timetable and time constraints. Even so. It’s a lovely place to while away an hour and watch the boat traffic on the broads. Reedham boasts two pubs on the river but only one has reopened at the moment. I can’t post a picture right now as I was concentrating on using my Nikon, but I will later.

I’ve been coming to Reedham for years and find it a lovely spot. The railway might have lost some of its interest now it’s been modernised and the old mechanical signalling’s been replaced, but the local station friends group makes up for that. They’ve done an excellent job with the station gardens and the small museum they maintain in one of the original station buildings.

The Reedham swing bridge – just waiting for a train…

22:30.

My final update for the day as I’m now back in my hotel in Ipswich, juggling plans for tomorrow as I’ve a couple of people to catch up with whilst enjoying this superb weather. My trip to Norwich was ‘interesting’ to say the least. On my return from Reedham I nipped into town to buy a sandwich. The first thing I saw was very positive. The ground floor of an office block just the other side of the River Wensum has been converted into an NHS Covid vaccination station. Dozens of people were inside with more queuing outside. The really positive thing was they were all young people. Sadly, the good impression didn’t last. a few yards up the road I came across a group of young people and one slightly older woman who were all well gone already. They were arguing as it was some girls birthday and the woman had trapped said girl in a lift three times (no, I can’t work it out either). It seemed like the usual carry-on that you get in Norwich most weekends when every village idiot for miles descends on the place. I thought no more of it until one of of the young men blurted out in exasperation “Oh Mum!”…Maybe Ry Cooder should have forgotten about Texas and written a song about Norfolk…

Anyways, here’s one last picture from today now that I’ve go them dowloaded onto the laptop (which seems to be behaving itself). When I got back to Ipswich I had chance to have a look at one of the new Bombardier Class 720s as one was waiting to return to London. Oh dear! They have 3+2 seating and the aisles are so narrow they’re a tight squeeze even for me. With a camera bag on my back I stood no chance of getting through, so imagine what they’d be like with people occupying those seats?

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