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06:00.

It’s another silly o’ clock start for me this me this morning as I’m travelling down to Wolverton to a memorial service for a friend, Major John Poyntz, who died last year. Due to Covid those of us who knew John have never had the chance to get together to celebrate his life and swap memories, but today we will.

Of course, today’s also the day the Government have relaxed all the Covid restrictions in England, so it may be an interesting day to be travelling. I’ll be blogging throughout the day, seeing how it pans out…

07:00

Walking to Halifax station was lovely this morning. There was barely a cloud in the sky. It’s obviously going to be a glorious day but there was still enough coolness in the air that I made it to the station without becoming a sweaty mess. I’m now on my first train of the day, the 06:44 to Manchester Victoria, which is made up from a pair of two-car Class 195s. It’s a quiet train with just half a dozen other passengers in the front car besides me so I’d no problem getting a table seat where I could set up the laptop to type this. I like the amenities on the 195, working air-con (great on a day like today), decent-sized tables that don’t trap your legs like the ones on the old Class 158s, plus power sockets and wifi. On the bulkhead in front of me is a Passenger Information Screen that tells me what the next stop is as well as the trains final destination. It even tells me the temperature (16 degrees), which is more than the old Calder Valley Class 155s ever could!

195s pass at Halifax with 195003 on the right working today’s 06:44 to Manchester Victoria.

My train never really filled up – even after calling at Rochdale, making it a very relaxing journey. The vast majority of passengers were still adhering to wearing masks which also helped. As we descended the bank from Miles Platting to Victoria I checked the progress on wiring the line to Stalybridge. After years of delay the work’s finally progressing. I noted several new piles for overhead masts that had been sunk, whilst several pallets of new cable trunking sat in the cess.

As my train was quiet there was no melee at the gateline so I made a speedy departure. The walk from Piccadilly to Victoria was also a breeze. One thing I did notice that really stood out was the absence of rough-sleepers. Normally I’d pass dozens. Today I only saw one on a bench near Piccadilly. Have Manchester finally got hold of the problem?

08:30.

I’m now on a 9-car Avanti Pendolino speeding South. This is the busiest I’ve seen these services for a while. It’s certainly not pre-Covid levels but it’s plain that passengers are returning to the rails. I’ll be interested to see what the loadings are like after Stoke as the next stop then isn’t until we reach Milton Keynes. A welcome change to this set (390043) is it’s the first I’ve been on where the table power socket has been changed to include two USB ports as well as mains – a welcome addition as I can now recharge some of my other gizmos as well as power the laptop!

09:55.

I made it to Milton Keynes without a hitch. The sun’s really cracking the flags here so I’m glad I packed the suntan lotion. My train from Manchester has a lot of slack time here in order to let non-stop services past, this gave me time to nip across the footbridge and get pictures and a cheery wave from the driver!

From Milton Keynes I’m doubling back to Wolverton on a LondonNortwestern service which is worked by a single 4-car Class 350 so it’s busy.

10:50.

What I and many others in the congregation hadn’t known (until the Vicar mentioned it) was that the church we were in was the very first church built by a railway company. Built in 1844, it was paid for by the London and Birmingham railway.

20:50.

Well, that was quite a day! John’s memorial was a great event in so many ways. It was chance for all of us to celebrate his life and achievements. It was also an opportunity for his family to meet some of his railway and military friends, and it was chance for us sll to swap stories – and stories there were aplenty! Lord Snape, who served with John on the Longmoor Military Railway when the “Great St Trinians train robbery” film was being made had some great stories to tell. One of his fellow Railway Inspectors (David Keay) also had a few tales to tell..

After the event we all adjourned to a nearby pub where a buffet had been laid on and we could enjoy a few jars in John’s memory. After all – it’s what he would have wanted!

We spent a glorious few hours reminiscing before breaking up and heading off in different directions. Two of us were heading North so Mervyn Allcock and I couldn’t resist a little ‘pit-stop’ in Derby. Railway aficianados will recognise the background and know exactly where we were.

21:45.

I’m now on the final leg home, having caught a train from Leeds to Halifax before the final walk home – happy that the weather’s cooling down and that I can have the next few days staying local. I might not be going far but there’s going to be plenty to blog about…

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