After a very pleasant evening staying with an old friend in London it’s another early start for me as I’m now heading to an assignment in Bristol this morning. Right now it’s time to walk down to Clapham Junction to catch a train to Reading. Today’s itinerary is Reading – Bristol – Westbury, after which I’ll be making my way to Cardiff where I’ll be staying overnight. Friday could prove interesting due to the next storm arriving. Snow and heavy winds are predicted for West Yorkshire so my journey home could prove to be fun!
I’ll be blogging throughout the day and (hopefully) from the event, so feel free to keep popping back to see what I get up to…
Clapham Junction staion was just waking up when I arrived. Most catering outlets were still closed but a cheery Costa Coffee kiosk on platform 10 provided me with my caffeine fix before I joined fellow travellers on platform 6 to catch the 06:58 to Reading. Dawn was beginning to break and the racous noise of parakeets made it obvious I was in London. The little buggers are slowly colonising the city and seem to be thriving.
I’m now on one of a pair of 5-car Class 458s making up a 10-car set. The train’s busy, but not rammed. Hardly anyone on here will be travelling the full route like me. This is a short-hop route and many who joined at Clapham disembarked at Richmond.
Not far to go now. I don’t often travel this route so it’s interesting to see the changes – such as the new depot on the site of the old Feltham marshalling yard site. Laid out in modern style it was occupied by several of the new Class 701s, none of which have ever turned a wheel in passenger service yet. They’re little more than expensive pigeon perches right now!
As expected, my train continued to empty out all along the route, at least until we got to Wokingham where a healthy number were waiting for us to arrive. I’m assuming we’re now in Reading’s orbit and these are Thames Valley commuters. This impression was reinforced when we called at Earley which was really busy, filling up the train again.
After all the rain and moody skies I’ve suffered recently today’s actually a great on for travelling. We have wall to wall sunshine and clear blue skies. I only hope this holds out for later when I’m in a position to make the most of it!
I’m now bowling along Brunel’s ‘billiard table’ at a rate of knots aboard on of GWR’s Hitachi built Class 800/3s working the 08:27 to Britol Temple Meads. These things really can shift! The acceleration is especially impressive. Also impressive is the billion pound rebuilding of Reading station that’s left it unrecognisable from the place of my youth. But it’s not just the station that’s changed. So have most of the train fleets with electric power being dominant now. An oddity I noticed was a couple of the C2C Class 387s, three of which are now with GWR on a year-long lease, I’d forgotten about them! Covering the entire UK rail network as I do it’s sometimes hard to keep up with the changes as I can’t get everywhere all the time. I really do need to spend some time down this way again soon. I’ve lots of fond memories of this line from my days living in London as Lynn and I would often travel the route for cycling weekends in the Thames valley or longer trips to Wiltshire or Cornwall and Devon.
Having called at Chippenham where the overhead wires run out we’ve switched to diesel power and I can feel the engine underneath me taking the strain. Cancelling the wires to Bristol (and Oxford) is yet another example of Government penny-pinching and short-term thinking. We’re in a climate emergency a should be doing everything we can to decarbonise transport for the good of the planet but our current political masters don’t have the sense to see that. Instead, we have the ludicrous situation of electric trains hauling around heavy diesel power-packs and fuel tanks to allow them to operate away from the wires.
I’m now at the Engine Shed at Bristol for the launch of the ‘window seater’ app which is a high quality geolocated audio guide. It’s been developed in partnership with Community Rail Network and funded by Innovate (UKRI) and the Dept of Transport. You can dowload it for Apple or Android phones.
Hmm – not the day I was expecting although I did wonder if the new storm would affect me. What I hadn’t expected was that it wouldn’t just eb a minor irritant and would change my plans completely!
Initially things had been going well. The launch of the app went well. After the initial event at Bristol we all boarded a GWR train to Westbury for an audio demonstration of what it had to offer as a route guide. The content’s really varied. It covers history and also contemporary life, such as the stories of people who set up adoption groups at their local station. At Westbury the Trans-Wilts Partnership served light refreshments and gave out goody bags from their centre in one of the old station buildings. Sadly, the weather had descended into showers by the time we arrived so I didn’t hang around. Instead I retraced my steps as far as Bradford on Avon where the sun still reigned which allowed me to get a scenic shot of a train crossing the bridge over the River Avon in sunshine.
I didn’t hang around as I needed to get more pictures from the app launch away to clients, which proved easier said than done as wifi reception was a none-starter and tethering my phone to may laptop didn’t work as 4G reception was awful – even in Bath! It wasn’t until I got back to Bristol that I managed to get the pictures away. It was at this point things went even more awry.
Dawn texted me to say that the severe weather warning had been raised from Amber to Red and that Wales was cancelling all train services tomorrow – so that was my plans up shit creek! Oh, and the icing on the cake? The Met Office was predicting up to 20cm of snow in the Pennines – so even if I could get back I might not be able to make it home without breaking my neck. There was only one thing to do and that was admit defeat and journey home. But first I had to overcome the communication problems and send off the batch of pictures the client needed, which kept me hanging around for another hour. Admittedly, it also allowed to me to get a last few pictures at Temple Meads where the main arch of the overall roof’s being enveloped in scaffolding and a crash-deck in order to restore it to the former glory it once held.
Mind you, the approaches to Temple Meads have changed somewhat recently. Not only has the Eastern throat been completely redesigned and renewed, there’s some interesting new architecture as a backdrop.
And now here I am on the 16:34 Cross-Country Voyager from Bristol heading for Leeds. I’m in the rear set and whilst this 5 car Class 221’s busy it’s not overcrowded. I’ve no doubt it’ll do what Voyagers always do and be the train version of ‘hot desking’ as it makes its way up to Scotland.
Well, I made it home. The Voyager to Leeds via Birmingham and Derby ended up very busy but not unpleasantly so. I managed to get some work done en-route and even though we were a few minutes late into Leeds I still made my connection through to Halifax where Dawn picked me up so that I didn’t have to walk for a change.
The weather back in West Yorkshire’s a lot colder, but there’s no sign (yet) of the impending storm. I’m disappointed to have missed out on Cardiff and the pictures that I had planned but I’ve plenty of things to do to do at home tomorrow as I’ve a mass of pictures to sort out. Plus, I get to spend more quality time with Dawn – and I don’t have to worry about the weather! What’s not to like?
I’ve a favour to ask…
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