This wasn’t quite how I was expecting to be travelling, but when needs must…
Dawn and I packed the car early this morning before driving over to Huddersfield to pick up her parents as we were all going to be travelling down together. There was only one problem. Four of us, all the clothes and presents plus the other Xmas supplies (and my camera bag) meant that there was so little room left in the car that it would’ve been a very uncomfortable journey down to Surrey. We’d looked at hiring a bigger vehicle but the rates this year were ridiculous, it would have cost us nearly £1000! I’d a sneaking suspicion this might happen so I’d already planted the seeds of a plan B – which was me catching the train and meeting them down there. When Dee saw how little space was left in the saloon for her parents even she agreed! So, here I am on my Jack Jones heading down to London. It was cheaper to come via the West Coast and there’s less cancellations too (LNER have knocked out a lot of services due to Covid staff shortages). I jumped on a TPE service from Huddersfield across to Manchester and now I’m sat on Avanti West Coast’s 12:15 to Euston. It’s worked by a 9-car Pendolino which is around 60% full but I managed to find a table seat where I’ve set up the mobile office to get some work done – something I couldn’t have done in the car!
I’ll keep you posted how the journey across London and down to Farnham goes as it unfolds. Right now we’re heading for Stoke-on-Trent in the same miserable weather that’s followed me all the way from West Yorkshire. I hear from Dee’s mum that they’re heading down the M1 right now. I hope their weather’s better on that side of the country…
We’ve had a classic Pendolino journey so far, speeding South with ease. Say what you like about these trains but they can’t half sift and you never even notice when you pass another service as there’s no pressure pulse or juddering like there used to be with the older Mk3 carriages. After leaving Stoke the train had filled up to around 70% occupancy. Now we’ve stopped for the final time at Milton Keynes where dozens more folk have joined us taking that up to 80-85%, thankfully the vast majority of people are wearing masks so the atmosphere doesn’t feel uncomfortable. There’s been no ticket check en-route, which is hardly surprising at the moment with the numbers of rail-staff off due to contracting Covid or self-isolating.
We’ve just sped through Cheddington which (in 1963) was the site of the infamous ‘great train robbery’ which took place just up the line at Ledburn,. The weather here’s dry but just as gloomy as the rest of the country I’ve traversed today. It’s 2 o’clock in the afternoon yet most cars have headlights switched on and industrial estates security lighting has tripped in!
Tempting as it was I didn’t hang around in London. Instead I caught a tube straight across to Waterloo. The Underground was far quieter than you’d expect this time of the year although Euston station was rammed with people heading North.
Waterloo was much more subdued but as much of its traffic is commuters that was no surprise. Rather than get a direct train I hopped my way down to Clapham Junction in order to see how busy services were. Here’s a Shepperton service after leaving Vauxhall. Good to experience an old friend (the Class 707) again. I drove one of these when they were being shaken down on the Siemens test track at Wildenrath in Germany!
Now I’m on another (earlier) Siemens product, a Class 450 heading for Alton. There’s half a dozen of us in this car, which is one of 12 making up this train…
Beat them! I’m now sitting in the ‘Mulberry’ pub next to Farnham station waiting for the car team to catch me up. They pulled off the M4 20 minutes ago so it might be a while before they get here. In the meantime I’m nursing an indifferent pint of the local Hogsback IPA whilst downloading pictures from the camera to the laptop. I’d originally intended to go for a wander when I arrived but the weather’s even wetter here than it was up North. So much for the sunny South!
I’ve a favour to ask…
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