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I’m breaking free of a damp and dismal Calder Valley today to head down to London for business and a break. There was no leisurely stroll to the station for me today as the rain was too heavy. Instead I hitched a ride with Dawn who was off to work in Huddersfield. I was just in time to catch the 09:44 to Manchester Victoria which is ‘cosy’ as Northern have only provided a 2-car Class 195/0 to work it – much to some other passengers dismay! It was already busy by the time it arrived in Halifax, I expect it to be full and standing by the time we leave Rochdale! The good news is that mask wearing is being taken seriously again with almost everyone on this train sporting one. I’ll be interested to see what the situation’s like on other services and in the capital…

It feels good to be travelling again. As much as I’ve enjoyed time at home recently, my feet were starting to itch. Sadly, it doesn’t look like I’m going to see much sunshine as the forecast is dismal across the country. Never mind, there’s always things to photograph anyway as I can always disappear underground in London.


We’ve pulled out of Rochdale and may prediction we’d be full and standing was optimistic as for once, Rochdale was quite quiet! Even so, our loadings look to be around 80-85% which is pretty good in such awful weather. Why would you venture out in such gloomy weather unless you had to? It’s so dark security lights are on all over the place and cars headlights are beaming as low grey cloud’s filtering out most natural light.


And breathe! I’m now on a very busy Avanti Pendolino heading for Euston via Crewe after a cold and soggy trudge across Manchester city centre which was hardly looking its best. The homeless people who congregate around Piccadilly Gardens looked even more wretched. I saw one guy in a sleeping bag who was oblivious to the fact he was getting soaked. Others huddled miserably in doorways, waiting for the rain to stop. Still, it’s nice to know that despite ordinary people’s privations our political ‘leaders’ will still be enjoying Xmas parties at everyone else’s expense as rules are only for the little people…

This is the busiest Pendolino I’ve been on since COP26. Even the unreserved coach (U) is packed which is highly unusual – especially on a Monday, but then passenger numbers really are bouncing back and the latest Covid variant appears to be having little effect other than making people wear masks. I’m sharing a table with a younger couple travelling to London who got on at Wilmslow, something I’ve rarely had to do these past coupe of years.


The weather’s not getting any better as I head South! We’re South of Crewe now and it’s still raining cats and dogs. The amount of flooded and waterlogged fields we’ve passed on the way bears testament to how heavy and persistent the rain’s been. Crewe was interesting. A new W Mids Class 730 sat in the station on a test run, whilst East Mids Rail normal Class 153 on the Derby service had been supplanted by an ex-Scotrail 3-car Class 170! The Arriva traincare shed South of the station contained a pair of ‘new’ Vivarail D78 trains for Transport for Wales whilst the yard hosted several newly-built Stadler EMUs for Merseyrail. With ‘no room at the inn’ on Merseyside these vehicles are cycled between Kirkdale and Crewe depots in order to gather their acceptance mileage.

South of Basford Hall yard I noticed several orange-clad teams out in the surrounding fields and lanes who looked like they were preparing the ground for the early stages of construction of the new High Speed 2 railway, part of which will join the existing line at this point. It’s something I’;ll have to keep an eye on.


Having sped through Rugby we’re less than an hour from London. I’ve suddenly realised how many locations on the West Coast line like Rugby I’ve spent Easter or Xmas day trackside for Network Rail or its alliance partners recording the work upgrading this vital artery. In one way I miss that life, although many wouldn’t envy me or any of the other men and women putting in 12 hour shifts in all weathers and living out of hotels whilst ‘normal’ people are spending time on their family festivities.


Sorry, where was I? I got rather distracted just as soon as I landed in London. I’ve missed the buzz, hustle and bustle but I couldn’t spend long soaking it up as I had things to do. My first task was to head over to Vauxhall to collect an old friend. My Nikon D5 and a long lens has been languising in camera specialist Fixation since October as they’ve been waiting for parts to repair them both. Last week I finally got the all-clear on the D5 which I was keen to get back in time for Thursday’s Community Rail Awards. I took a tumble with both bits of kit back in September and it’s taking an age to get them repaired. Whilst I’ve been able to fall back on uising my Nikon D4 I’ve really missed the D5 as its performance is up another notch.

Thankfully, my insurance company were excellent and approved the four figure repair bill without a quibble. They were really helpful throughout the process too. All I had to pay was the £150 excess. Now I’m looking forward to putting the D5 through its paces again – although the weather here in London’s been less than helful as it’s been unremittingly awful. Still, there’s always tomorrow…

In the meantime, I met up with a friend at Victoria for a quick drink then set out to explore some old haunts to look at photographic possibilities. Here’s one such location (Denmark Hill) which has changed enormously since I first visited due to enjoying a dalliance with a young lady nearby back in 1981…

I’ve a favour to ask…
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