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Well, it seemed that way at the time but today’s trip to London has got off to a mixed start! On the bright side – the rain we’d had overnight had abated by the time my alarm went off at 05:45 so the walk to Halifax was rather pleasant this morning. There were few people about apart from a couple of hardy dog-walkers (not that they have much option, really) and a trio of intrepid women joggers pounding their way uphill across Savile Park. The town centre was equally quiet although the area around the Piece Hall was still buzzing with film crews and all their kit.

My intention was to catch the 06:53 to Leeds in time to make an 11 minute connection with LNERs London service. This failed at the first fence as the Northern service was already running 7 minutes late. Ho hum! To fill in time I caught the Huddersfield – Bradford shuttle which was worked by one of the old class 158s pbought by the local PTE back in the 1980s. 158904 was busy, at least half-full, which surprised me. I didn’t realise so many people commuted into Bradford from Huddersfield. One at Interchange I joined the crowds for the late-running York service. Passenger numbers are certainly picking up again judging by the number joining and leaving the train.

We left Bradford Interchange 10 mins late and I’d visions of watching the LNER service pull out as I arrived, but I hadn’t accounted for the slack timing of my Northern service. It arrived at Leeds West Junction (just outside the station) 8 mins down, then magically recovered 6 minutes in the space of 26 chains* to arrive in Leeds just 2 minutes down!

This gave me plenty of time to cross the footbridge to platform 8 and wait for my train to pull in as it was arriving from Skipton. I was pleasantly surprised to find it was worked by one of LNERs loco-hauled Mk 4 trainsets rather than an Azuma. 91106 was doing the honours this morning. The advantage of the Mk4 sets is that they still contain a ‘quiet’ coach which is immediately behind the loco and isn’t reserved. It also lives up to its name as few people use it! So, I’m now bouncing my way South with that familiar stop, start, jerk motion that was a feature of the loco-hauled trains but that’s totally absent from the Azumas.

91106 arrives at Leeds with 1A13, the 06:56 from Skipton to London Kings Cross.


In dire need of caffeine after such an early start I had a wander through the train to a sparsely stocked buffet in order to buy coffee. This gave me chance to counts heads. Getting back to my set just before we pulled in to Newark North Gate I counted just 49 people in Standard Class. Clearly, Covid is still having an impact as this is a premium train which would normally be full of business people. The majority of folks I passed fitted into this category with lots of expensive laptops on display and people busy bashing keyboards, but numbers travelling have obviously taken a hit since early December. Even so, now that restrictions are easing once more I doubt it’ll be long before they bounce back. I’ll be interested to watch how that goes through the year. This year I’m off on my biennial trip around Britain for RAIL magazine, which such be a fascinating contrast to my travels in 2020!

Right now we’re traversing the Cambridgeshire flatlands on the approach to Peterborough and running six minutes late. The weather’s gloomy, with layers of cloud some of which threaten rain, conditions that I expect to see stay with me all day. As we approached the station I noticed a fan of old sidings (Spital?) that have lain disused for donkey’s years have been cleared of weeds and fenced off to create a secure compound. It looks like they’re about to be brought back into use – but what for?


We’re on the outskirts of London and it’s proving to be grim down South. The clouds have lowered, cutting down the slight so much that vehicles have already got their headlights on! This is a bit of a bugger, but such is life. It limits the range of shots I can get but thanks to the wonders of digital photography I can still get decent pictures. If this was my old film days it would have been a waste of time, the classic old camera joke of set your camera exposure for 3 days at F5.6…


Phew! Where do I start? I’ve been having a frenetic time travelling around London in an effort to document the latest transformation that’s going on in 3rd rail land South of the Thames. The biggest change since the end of the old slam-door trains back in 2005. To do this I’ve been hanging around the Clapham Jn area – with an ulterior motive in mind. I’ve lent a spare zoom lens to an old friend who lives next door but needed to drop off the kit associated with it. We managed the transfer at lunchtime. Serendipity would have it that this was an ideal time to be taking pictures at the Junction as there were one or two unusual working such this…

I’m now taking a break in an old railway station building to update this blog and recharge various devices before moving on again…


I’m now winging my way back up north after a brilliant afternoon in across South London, exploring old haunts and also discovering just how much the city has changed in the decade since I left. Some of the old London that I remember is till left, but so much has changed due to the mass of new buildings that have appeared. South London railways offer a great vantage point as many arrive into the city on viaducts. You can still pass serried rows of chimney pots and imagine what it must have been like when everyone relied on coal for heating. You won’t see Dick Van Dyke dancing amongst them or Mary Poppins floating past – instead you’ll see a backdrop of modern buildings dwarfing the traditional rooflines as London’s extended up, and up – and up…

Nowadays London’s railways are a corridor into a very built-up city South of the river. A train driver friend once described the route through Wandsworth past Vauxhall and into Waterloo as a bit like trying to bomb the ‘Death Star’ (Star Wars fans will know exactly what he means). At least the new blocks don’t house laser cannons!

During my explorations I stopped of in Denmark Hill again, but this time I visited the pub in the old station building. It was damaged by fire back in the 1980s then became one of the famous Bruces brewery ‘Firkin’ pubs of the 1980s. This one was named the ‘Phoenix and Firkin’ for obvious reasons. The Firkin chain is (sadly) long gone, but this pub survives under a different ownershio and seems to thrive. The road bridge outside is now blocked off and become a huge beer garden which is a fantastic summer space. Whilst I was sat inside I overhead a group of nurses from the nearby Kings College Hospital who’d called in for a drink at the end of their shifts before going home. Clearly knackered, they were talking about dealing with intubing patients with Covid. It was hard to listen to what they had to deal with and the obvious stresses they had o go through, yet tried to talk about in a matter of fact way. Not gallows humour by any means as the stresses showed and there was nothing but compassion for the people they’d been treating – which made it worse in some ways as I’ll bet many of the people they’re having to deal with now are the ones who’ve refused to be vaccinated.

Moving on I retraced my steps to Clapham via a brief stop at Wandsworth Rd station – just to see how much has changed – which is a lot. The Victoria – London Bridge trains are no more. Now the line’s part of the Overground and the trains run to/from Clapham Junction. Bushes and the nightmare that’s Buddleia have destroyed the possibility of recreating the shots I used to get in the 1990s whilst the skyline has changed completely as Battersea Power station has been invaded by new housing development. I’ll go back one day in an afternoon just to get some comparison shots.


I’m now on the last leg home – by train anyway. I came back from London aboard another quiet LNER service, this time the 18:33 to Bradford Forster Square which was worked by a pair of 5-car Azumas. There was only about a dozen of us in the front car of the front train. The trip allowed me to spend time editing pictures from today which will start appearing on my website tomorrow but it may take a few days for the full haul to be processed as I’ve other things to do too.

I’m now on a rather busy 2-car class 195 heading to Manchester from Leeds. The difference between the two trains couldn’t be more marked. From ten cars to two! That said, they’re all new trains serving very different markets.

*A chain is an antiquated measurement (1 chain = 22 yards) that’s still used to calculate distances on the railways which is done in miles and chains. Although superseded by metric, it’s still used on many railway maps.