I wish! The weather here in the Calder Valley’s gloomy and murky still, only with added drizzle for interest. So, I’m escaping the confines of the valley to head Westwards, mixing business and pleasure in order to drop in on a couple of family members before Christmas as the way things are going with Omicron we could well be in another lockdown in January – so who knows when I’ll get to see people again?
I’m currently on Northern’s 09:22 service from Sowerby Bridge to Chester. The train seems reasonably busy but as it’s only a two-car Class 195 instead of the normal 3-car that’s hardly surprising. There’s the usual mix of ages and reasons for travelling with ramblers rubbing shoulders with Christmas shoppers and other folk heading for a day out in the bright lights and colour of the big city, which must seem very attractive after a few days of monochrome weather here in the Pennines!
I’ll update the blog as the day unfolds, so feel free to keep popping back…
As expected, most passengers bailed out at Manchester Victoria, leaving a handful of us still aboard. I’ll be doing the same at Newton-Le-Willows in order to check out the rebuilt station before catching a connecting service to Liverpool Lime St.
Flying visit to NLW complete I’m on my way to Liverpool once more. Newton station’s been massively improved with a purpose-built ticket office and staff facilities, level access to both platforms provided by lifts, a new bus interchange and a massive (and busy) car park. The original building still exists on the London-bound platforms but its shutteted and closed. The subway underneath the tracks is decorayed with a variety of artworks from local sources and lit with changing coloured lights. It’s a vast improvement on the old station where you had to climb a multitude of steps to reach the platforms. New waiting rooms have been installed at platform level too.
Curses, foiled again! I’m currently en-route to Southport having lingered long enough in Liverpool to grab a series of shots at Lime St station before wandering across to Central.
Lime St contained a couple of shots worth grabbing. East Midlands Railway have a Class 156 on loan to Northern and the unit graced us with its presence. Meanwhile, Transport for Wales had scraped together a pair of Class 153s for their service from Chester. Nicknamed “dogboxes” many, these single-car units aren’t normally allowed out on their own anymore as most have toilets that aren’t disabity legislation compliant so have to work with a set that is.
Central station was eerily quiet. I’d have expected it to be buzzing this close to Christmas but many folk seem to be staying away. Having read the latest SAGE predictions on the way over this morning that’s probably a wise move. If it wasn’t for the fact what little moral authority this Government had has been shot to pieces I’d expect a new lockdown to be declared in January. Now, I’m not sure they dare…
My curse was due to the fact I’d hoped to have been able to get more shots of the new Merseyrail trains on test runs today but none are running. Mind you, the weather’s hardly conducive. The railways are starting to be hit hard by Covid with many staff self-isolating or off sick. This is bound to have an effect on maintaining service levels but also on training. I expect to see further delays in introducing new fleets on South-West Railway and Merseyrail next year.
Still. I’m now off for lunch with my Neice and her Husband, so not all’s bad..
Well, that was a lovely interlude! The three of us had a lovely lunch in Birkdale, a village subsumed by Southport but a place that’s very much kept its villagy feel and become quite a little community. The area around the railway station’s a thriving place full of restaurants, cafés and independent shops, many of which nestle under Victorian canopies. When Adi had to go back to work Charlotte and I stayed for another hour chatting and swapping stories. Like me, she’s inherited the footloose gene and misses travelling. We’d arranged to meet up in Bali last year (a place we both love) but Covid put the kibosh on those plans. Who knows when we’ll be able to return?
Now I’m back in Southport proper, hoping to be able to meet up with one of my siblings…
I find reading the memorial tablet is a jolly start to any journey from Newton. I always have the voice of the actor Richard Wilson at the back of my mind, his tones of admonishment match the subject well.
Robert Pritchard said:
The EMR 156 is not on loan to Northern – it will be one of the 15 that are permanently transferring to Newton Heath (four have gone to date). Always enjoy the blog and have a great Christmas and all the best for 2022, hope to bump into you again soon. Rob
Paul Bigland said:
Cheers Rob. I’ve seen lots of contradictory info about 401 including from industry insiders, I should have known that you’d be able to set the record straight! Let’s try and get together (restrictions permitting) for that pint in Sheffield we’ve always threatened to have…Have a cool Yule and a great New Year, all the best, Paul