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Here we go again with another ‘dolly mixture’ day which will see me traversing the country doing all sorts of rail-related things for several people – some of which I have to be secretive and circumspect about as they’re under an embargo. Even so, feel free to keep popping in through the day as this rolling blog unfolds. It’ll see me travel from Halifax to Nottingham, then on to London before ending up back in Nottingham again. Right now it’s coffee time…


Time ran out for me this morning so there was no easy stroll to the station on this frosty morning. Instead Dee offered to give me a lift to ensure I made my train. Now I’m sat on the 07:19 from Halifax to Leeds. The train was quiet as far as Bradford but now its filled up with folks heading into Leeds. Most of those in my car are young people either off to work or college.


Time to change trains in Leeds which is pretty busy. Here’s the scene after my 4-car service arrived. Admittedly, it’s more of a scrum than usual as the escalator’s out of action!


I hadn’t long to wait for my Cross-Country connection South. A pair of Voyagers turned up on the 08:11 to Bristol Temple Meads which meant there was little difficulty in finding a seat so I managed to get some work done on the way to Chesterfield where I changed trains again. Funny how you don’t go to a place for ages then end up there two Mondays in a row! This time I never left the station as I was only there to transfer to a Northern service to Nottingham. This turned out to be worked by a 2-car Class 195 which was half-full. This service is an all stations stopper so it has plenty of short distance trade.


Now, where was I? Oh yes – sorry, it’s been a really busy morning and it’s only now when I’m sat on a train from Nottingham to London for the next part of the days assignment (which I can’t talk about just yet) that I can catch my breath.

On arrival at Nottingham I just had enough time to grab a coffee before joining East Midlands Railway’s Community rail team and delegates for the community rail conference for a little side-trip before the start of the main event. EMR had very kindly laid on two different visits. One to Attenborough station to meet the local friends group and see the excellent work they’re doing, and a visit to the old signalbox at Lowdham station which has been relocated, restored and turned into a a museum. I tagged along with the latter group in order to get some pictures. Needless to say, we went by train, catching one of EMRs cascaded fleet of Class 170 DMUs. As and when they’re released by other operators these trains are gradually replacing all EMRs old BR built diesel fleet of Class 153s, 156s and 158s. They’re certainly a great improvement.

Lowdham’s a lovely station which has a superb old building on the Newark bound platform. Now the old Midland Railway signalbox takes pride of place next to it on the old loading dock. The box used to sit on the opposite side by the level crossing but this was far too near the operational to allow to to be preserved, hence it being moved. Here’s our group having the complexities of absolute block signalling and bell codes demonstrated and explained.

An older EMR Class 156 speeds through Lowdham. The signalbox used to be on the left hand side past the level crossing.

After our visit we headed back (by train again) to Nottingham in time to register for the conference then enjoy lunch. Sadly, I’ve had to shoot off just as things were starting, but I’ll be back this evening for the social side and have a full day there tomorrow.

Well, you don’t want a hard day at a conference on an empty stomach! Some of the EMR Community Rail team tuck in before the opening session.

I had enough time to dump stuff in my room have a bite to eat and get some pictures before hot-footing it back to the station to catch the London train. On the way I noticed that the Robin Hood line services to Worksop have gone rather upmarket!

Right new I’m speeding towards St Pancras on another of the EMR fleet that’s due to be replaced. This Class 222 (016 for those who care about such things) is looking a bit tatty but then it’s due to be phased out by the new Hitachi built bi-mode ‘Aurora’ Class 810 units which are due to begin entering service from next year.


I’m less than half an hour out of London now and what a change in the weather! It’s wall to sunshine here in Bedfordshire. I’m beginning to think I might be a bit over-dressed for this jaunt as I’m in tweeds and a waterproof (which is going to get stuffed in the camera bag at this rate. Having made its last stop at Kettering the train’s very quiet. I’m in the composite coach D which is half 1st Class – half Standard. There’s only two of us in Standard and no-one in 1st. Unlike other routes the Midland Main Line doesn’t seem to be seeing passenger numbers bouncing back in the same way. I’ll be interested to see if my return train’s the same as that should be ‘peak’ time departures from London.


I’m back! And I can now reveal where I’ve been – but no pictures (yet). When I arrived in London I headed over to Paddington to join up with other print and social media friends and colleagues for a press trip on…Crossrail. Or, as it’s now officially known, the Elizabeth line. Our group was given a tour of the new Paddington station, which looks amazing. After being used to the Central line and other deep level tubes the sheer scale of the place takes some getting used to. The architecture’s a real eye-opener too. Afterwards we were taken on one of the test trains and whisked over to Liverpool St in a matter of minutes. On the way we were given the opportunity for a cab ride and chance to get pictures (you’ll get to see some soon – promise!). We had another tour of Liverpool St station and its warren of passages, escalators and even an inclined lift. Throughout the tour we were given a lot of freedom to take pictures and mooch around as well as being briefed on various facts and figures. Sadly, I couldn’t record a lot of them as I was wearing several different photographic hats but I can tell you one. The Elizabeth line has a grand total of 10,000 fire doors and that the design of some of these was problematic (and caused delays) due to the fact there was no standardisation. I can also say that the boss of High Speed 2 (Mark Thurston) worked on Crossrail in the early days and has ensured that HS2 does have standardised components like fire doors! We returned to Paddington on another test train which gave us all chance to get even more photos and enjoy another cab ride before bidding our farewells. In fact, our hosts were so accommodating and keen to show us around that the tour overran which meant that I made it back to St Pancras in time to catch the 18:05 back to Nottingham by the skin of my teeth. As I suspected, it’s a far busier train than earlier. There’s even folks in 1st Class, but then it’s only a 4-car 222/1 – one of the sets that were originally built for Hull Trains in 2005 but which transferred to East Midlands Trains back in 2009 in a deal that wasn’t without controversy in the First Group family.