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06:30.

Dawn’s just breaking here in Clapham and I’m preparing to head to the station and off to work somewhere I’ve not been for a while. The weather’s looking a lot better than it was back in Yorkshire which is good. Hopefully I won’t be freezing my nuts off as is often the case on jobs like this. We’ll see. But first it’s time to boost my system with some caffeine. I’ll blog throughout the day and post pictures when I’m able. Catch you later…

07:23.

Having bod adieu to my friend, stolled down to the Junction and picked up a caffeine top-up I’m now on a Southern service to Three Bridges. This time of morning Clapham station felt like the old days with the number of people coming and going – including dozens of schoolkids.

The day’s dawned with nary a cloud in the sky which should make for some good pictures if it stays this way.

Our first stop is East Croydon which is rising into the sky at an ever faster rate. The station’s become hemmed in by high-rise residential blocks whilst the sky is full of tower cranes building more.

08:15.

Part 2 of my journey. I’m on a rail replacement bus from Three Bridges to Haywards Heath. This is a massive operation with covered walkways, marquees and a car park full of buses.

We’re even given drinks tokens!

Of course, the problem now is traffic. We got out of Three Bridges onto the A264 and now we’re stuck in a queue of traffic at a roundabout over the M23. Ho hum…

11:15.

First site visit done. Embankment stabilisation work South of Haywards Heath.

18:45

Well, that was a long but fascinating day and it went far better than I feared that it might. All the early wrinkles were ironed out and it was a joy to be trackside again being part of the amazing work that goes on during railway blockades. Plus, I can add another railway tunnel to add to the list of ones I’ve (legitimately) walked through. I’ll add some pictures later. After the work on the blockade one of my clients staff drove me around various sites across Sussex and Kent to get pictures of work they’d carried out previously – from embankment stabilization to platform extensions. We covered a lot of ground.

It was interesting in another ways in that I got to explore a lot of the area I knew by rail by road, which gave a very different perspective. I was surprised to find some villages in the affluent South that were actually looking pretty down at heel as shops and pubs had closed. Not what I remember from my time down here at all.

Our last job was recording platform extension work at Littlehaven, which was very handy as the station is served by Thameslink, so when we’d finished it was easy for me to head back North without having to cross London on the tube. Instead I had a direct train across the Thames to St Pancras. I have to admit to a fair bit of nostalgia as I took that trip. I have so many happy memories of that part of the world that some were obviously going to come to mind. What did surprise me was how busy stations like Three Bridges and East Croydon have become again. Life’s returning to the railways.

The trip across London via Thameslink is always a delight as it showcases the city’s skyline before plunging underground to deposit me at St Pancras Thameslink. My, I remember visiting this when it was just an enormous concrete box buried underground! As soon as I arrived I made a beeline for Kings Cross next door, my timekeeping was such that I just made LNER’s 17.33 to Harrogate via Leeds. When we pulled out of Kings Cross it was just like the old days. The train is absolutely rammed and I’m sharing a vestibule with a young lad from Skipton (Ryan) and his dog, ‘Trixie’.

20:00.

Despite the fact my LNER train was packed and I was stuck in a vestibule I really enjoyed the journey. Why? Because it was a return to the old days when strangers struck up conversations on trains. It’s something Covid put the mockers on that’s now returning – and it’s brilliant!

Right now I’m on my last leg. Being fleet of foot I had just enough time at Leeds to make an earlier train back to Halifax. I’m now on a service to Blackpool North – another busy train.