As threatened I’ve escaped the Calder valley this morning. Having packed my passport I’m heading across the Pennines to Manchester and the North-West to (hopefully) obtain some scenic railway pictures as part of a long-standing commission. The weather’s certainly ideal. We’ve a crisp, frosty morning in the valley with clear blue skies that make the ideal backdrop. Having walked up the hill towards Halifax I paused for a moment to grab this shot which illustrates what I mean. I never tire of this view and will often linger here to watch the world go by.
Right now I’m on the 08:44 Northern service from Halifax to Manchester Victoria which is made up of a 2-car class 195. I’m assuming this is part of the Dept Transport inspired cost-cutting/service reduction as normally this would be a four car service this time of day. Admittedly, it’s not even half full, but we’re only just into the journey.
I’ll be blogging throughout my travels today, so feel free to pop back and see where I get to and what I end up doing…
We’ve just left Rochdale where we picked up a handful of people heading into the city, but nothing like the numbers you can expect during rush-hour. This side of the Pennines is just as frozen and icy as the West. Th fields are blanketed in frost which is glistening in the low winter sunlight. The roofs of many houses display the same characteristics – showing who’s got decent loft insulation – and who hasn’t! I’m looking forward to being able to get the camera out but first I’ve got to cross the city to get to Piccadilly…
My meander across central Manchester was interesting as everywhere was quieter than i’ve seen it in a long time. Victoria station was sonambulent and the city centre just as sleepy. Few homeless people graced doorways (thankfully) and shoppers were equally thin on the ground. Passing the Wetherspoons I noticed a group of young lads huddled in the window. Eschewing the usual pints of lager they were drinking pitchers of lurid looking cocktails. Their day may get messy…
Piccadilly station was busier than Victoria but only marginally so. For a railway cathedral this was hardly a feast day.
I’m now on a Northern Class 323 heading out along the truncated remains of the old Woodhead route. It’s a route I know well but it’s a shadow of the line I knew as a boy in the early 1970s when it was a major trans-pennine freight artery. All the sidings and yards, loco stabling points and engines are long gone as the line was closed in 1981. Now there’s just a passenger service that shuttles between Manchester, Glossop and Hadfield.
I’m retracing my steps from Glossop and Dinting after a productive if frustrating couple of hours. The low winter light didn’t allow me to get the pictures I wanted in Glossop (too many long shadows) but it was ideal for shots around the Dinting viaduct. It felt odd to be back. I last spent time taking pictures around here 10 or so years back but I chiefly remember it from the 1970s when there was an active steam railway centre here based on the single road loco shed. All of this was abandoned at the beginning of the 1990s. Dinting station still retains its old buildings although those on the abandoned platforms aren’t ageing well…
I’m now on my way back to Manchester after taking a trip down the Mid-Cheshire line to Northwich to recce a few photographic locations. Sadly, nothing stood out and what did would only work later in the year with different lighting conditions. Still, it was a chance to reacquaint myself with a line I’ve not had need to traverse for several years. I ended up in Northwich, the source of most of the UKs rock salt – a precious commodity this time of year! Ignoring the fact using such a cortosive naterial in this day and age is rather mad I was curious to see the state of the station. Part of the original building suffered a rather spectacular collapse not that long ago and it was amazing no-one was killed. Repairs are still ongoing. As a kid I remember when this place was a hive of railway activity due to mineral traffic to and from the ICI (remember them) works. Now the sidings are abandoned and overgrown with Silver Birch trees whilst the site of the locomotive depot is a housing estate.
I had an hour to kill between trains so wandered into town which is a 10 minute hike. It looks to have some fine old buildings but town planners haven’t done it any favours by cutting it off with inner ring roads. One of the most impressive buildings is now a Wetherspoons, which says it all really. The actual pub is in a shed-like structure at the rear!
Wow, so much that I want to write about – so this section will change as I travel.
I was sorely tempted to stop off in Stockport on my way back North as the light looked like it would’ve been ideal for sunset shots through the iconic viaduct but I hesitated as I needed to pick up some shopping in the city. More fool me as by the time I was approaching Piccadilly the conditions were perfect. Oh well..
Back in the city I headed over to Chinatown to grab some ingredients that are almost impossible to find outside major cities or university towns with a cosmopolitan student base. I stocked up on Red and Green curry pastes plus fiery red chillis and pea aubergines which are such a feature of Thai cooking.
During my wanderings I found myself drawn to the Northern Quarter and a friendly pub of old. I’ll be honest – I miss city life – especially so after the covid separations we’ve all had to endure. Sitting at a bar, overhearing (intelligent) conversations has been much missed…
The train back across the Pennines was another experience I’ve missed. The 3-car 195 was busy from Victoria as many people were either returning home from work or an early evening in town. As usual, my camera (which was cradled in my lap) became a talking point. It started a conversation with the the chap sat next to me in the tip-up seats. He’d been out with his grandson playing virtual cricket and was blown away by the experience. Apparently, the one thing that isn’t virtual is the bat you hold and the balls that head your way! I really enjoyed the interaction as it’s one of the things I’ve always loved about train travel and missed because of Covid, People just haven’t been as willing to engage in the way we used to. Whilst I loved to hear his enthusiasm (and trepidation) for trying something that was obviously outside his comfort zone, the issue for me was realising that ‘grandad’ was obviously several years younger than I am! This is becoming a familiar story. I don’t feel old, it’s other people who make me seem that way – honest!
I’m now back at home and taking the rest of the night off, but expect lots of more guff and stuff tomorrow.
I’ve a favour to ask…
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