Today the weather’s finally turned good and stopped raining and I have a few hours to spare so I’m popping over to Merseyside in the hope of getting some shots of Merseyrail’s new Stadler-built Class 777 trains on mileage accumulation runs between Liverpool and Southport. There are now many Special Train Plan (SPT) paths in the timetable and I have a window that allows me to be around for a couple of them. Right now I’m on my way from Sowerby Bridge to Liverpool via Manchester, hoping to find the sweet spot of location and weather – and hope the runs aren’t cancelled at the last minute!
I’m now on my way from Liverpool Central towards Southport on one of the old Merseyrail trains. What’s the fuss you nay ask? Well, for me it’s a bit of personal nostalgia. You see, I grew up in Southport and remember when these old trains were brand new and just being introduced. I was still a teenager then and I worked in a factory making underground telephone cable for the National Coal Board (NCB) that was right next to the railway. If you ever get the train between Birkdale and Southport and gaze to your right you’ll pass a place with a clocktower. That’s where I worked. In those days it was called ‘Adlec Ltd’. As well as making cables we also made plastic mirrors by their 1000. They were used as vanity mirrors in British cars of the day. You know the ones you’d find in the back of the sunshields above the windscreens? Them. Making the armoured underground telephone cable was fun. It came in various lengths and each length had to be capable of stretching by 15%. The only way we could do that way by hand. A few of us would tie one end to a post, stretch it with a rope until the wires and brass connector head fitted, then clamp it with a metal ring. There was only one problem. The factory aas too short to do this with the longest length the NCB ordered. The solution was to do it outside in the street! We’d tie one end to a nearby lamp post, then it would take half a dozen of us to stretch it. One time I remember us doing it was during a blizzard. That was fun. So, if in 1978 and you went past on the train and thought you saw half a dozen blokes looking like they were trying to pull down a lamp post – you weren’t mad – that was us!
This memory has come back to me because the Class 507s were just being introduced, so I got to watch them from work. They sounded very different to the old LMS built trains from 1938 so it was easy to know they were coming – and now they’re going, after 44 years to be replaced by the third fleet I’ve known in my lifetime. Barring a genetic fluke or miracle advances in medicine I doubt I’ll be around to see the fourth generation!
My affection for old trains is really reserved for the old 1938 stock which was from a completley different era. Whilst the 597s were all yellow Formica the 502s were panelled with exotic hardwoods which used to have little labels telling you what they were. They had deep bouncy horsehair seats too! In contrast the 507s were more utilitarian and a product of their age. The new teains are for yet another age – one where the population’s ageing. They have a rare thing in the UK, step-free level boarding.
As usual, the law of Sod came out to play today. There *should* have been two of the new units out, but one was cancelled at short notice, leaving me with only one chance to get pictures. Here’s 777010 heading back to Sandhills from Southport, captured at the lovely little station of Birkdale in Southport’s suburbs.
Still, it was a nice opportunity to get out and enjoy the sunshine whilst remembering old times and a different age. Now I’m en-route to Liverpool to pick up some shopping before heading home. Time’s precious at the moment so I doubt I’ll have time to stop off on the way to get more pictures.
I did spot this earlier when I was walking through Renshaw St. Roadworks have uncovered the old tram tracks that have been buried since the last Liverpool tram ran in 1959..
I’m on my way home using a TPE train from Liverpool Lime St to Manchester Victoria and I’ve just heard the most surreal conversation. As we pulled out of Lime St a young lad and his hard-faced girlfriend occupied the table opposite and began to talk. Well, he talked – and boasted of his jail time and the fact he has 392 criminal convictions and he’s not even 30. Oh, and how his solitictor ‘loves him’ as he’s made so much money from him. It was totally bizarre. He was actually boasting about being such a shit criminal he can’t even get away with shoplifting! Some criminal mastermind! They got off the train at Lea Green, leaving me wondering ‘what on earth’? If I hadn’t been sitting here on the laptop with the ability to transcribe his transgressions as he uttered them I might have thought I’d imagined it.
I swapped from TPE to Northern at Victoria for the last leg home. It’s certainly been a varied day and the next week will be very much the same. I’m getting home early as tomorrow Dee and I (along with her parents) are relocating to Surrey for a week, so the pair of us need to sort out our stuff and pack. The logistics are fun as we’re taking Jet (our elderly moggie) with us, which will be the first time in his 20 years of life he’s ever set paw outside of Yorkshire! We didn’t feel comfortable leaving him at home with strangers for that length of time so we thought the old boy should have an adventure in his ‘golden years’. At least he’ll be with people he knows.
This means the next few blogs will be coming from a very different corner of England. I’ve a couple of jobs on whilst I’m there, so it’s not going to be all cricket on the green – although I’m hoping we will have time to indulge in that – as well as the football…
I’m bringing today’s blog to an end with a couple of final pictures from today that show the difference the new trains will make to passenger accessability. Here’s one of the older trains at Liverpool Central earlier today. Notice the step down from the train.
This is known as the PTI (Platform Train Interface) and is the biggest cause of accidents on the railways nowadays. Here’s one of the new trains on test at Birkdale station this afternoon. Spot the difference.
Yep, no step, no gap and level floors throughout. This is how things should be. Sadly, this is how a minority of new trains are. I’ll look forward to trying these new Stadler trains out in public service soon.
I’ve a favour to ask…
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