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09:15.

As threatened I’m treating myself to a day out exploring as the weather’s gorgeous today. I’m currently sitting on Halifax railway station with the sun blasting out it’s welcome warmth. It’s only early but there’s already some power in those rays. I wonder if I should have packed some suntan lotion?

A packed Leeds bound train’s just come and gone. Nice day for it…

My plan is to head West for a few hours. My day not’s not going to be a marathon as Dee and I are out for a meal with friends tonight. Even so, I’m sure I can have an adventure. Feel free to keep popping in to see what I get up to…

09:25.

When the Chester train I was waiting for arrived I was somewhat disconcerted to find it consisted of a single 2-car Class 195 which was already busy at around 75% loading. I managed to secure a seat but no table so I’m typing this with my laptop balanced atop my camera bag which is perched on my lap. My fellow passengers are a real mix of young and old. In front of me is a young couple (although I suspect they’re friends rather than partners). He’s trying to impress her with his local knowledge. Problem is, I know what he’s saying he’s made up! I’m biting my tongue and resisting the urge to interject!

09:35.

The couple turned out to be two couples and they all disembarked at Hebden Bridge. I managed to nick their table and my seats have been replaced by two local ‘characters’ inked with a right mess of neck tattoos and dodgy ear-piercings. Well, when I say ‘piercings’ they’re more like bullet holes. The younger of the pair has ears like Emmental cheese. I can see today’s going to be one of those days…

09:40.

Much to my unsurprise, the ‘characters’ who joined us at Hebden Bridge left us at Todmorden. They weren’t alone. This area’s a popular hiking destination and several people with rucsacs and walking poles detrained with them. Now the train’s quietened down. Until our next stop. Rochdale.

11:00.

I’ve had a busy hour. As expected my train refilled at Rochdale to become full and standing yet again. I wandered throgh from end to end to check. As we pulled into Victoria we passed the ‘Northern Belle’ dining train which was waiting for a platform. This was too good a chnce to miss so I hung around at Victoria to get a few pictures of the crowds joining the train which was heading for Oxenholme on the edge of the Lake district. It’s great to seee these leisure services returning and see how well patronised it was. There’s nothing better than being wined and dined on a train with magnificent scenery as a backdrop.

Red carpet treatment as passengers board the ‘Northern Belle’

Shots fired (as it were) I strolled over to Piccadilly to catch my next train and bumped into John, an old friend who’d just driven it from Euston! We had time for a chatvand catch-up before I boarded the return working for this 9-car Pendolino – the 10:55 to Euston – which is rammed!

Bar the unreserved coach (C) it’s a mass of reserved setas and people milling around swapping coaches in an effort to find a seat. I’m stood in the vestibule as I gave up after trying 3 cars. Plus, I’m only going to Crewe. Here’s how F looks – and we haven’t stopped at Stockport or Wilmslow yet!

14:00.

Homeward bound now. At Crewe I caught up with a pair of the new Class 730 electric trains which have been built for West Midlands services. They’re being tested between Crewe and Nuneaton. The pair I saw weren’t in the most photographic position and left before me, but I managed to catch them up at Stafford where they were in an ideal location (better pic later).

Heading back to Crewe which has got the decorators in giving the place a much-needed coat of paint I managed a few decent library shots before catching a Transport fo Wales service back to Manchester. Every train I’ve been on has been busy, Avanti services especially so. Here’s my train from Stafford to Crewe.

16:20.

Another day, another change of plan due to the wonders of social media and the ability of people to keep tabs on each other! Whilst making my way back North I found out that an old friend and RAIL magazine colleague was also heading from Manchester. We’ve not had chance to meet up for a while so the fact we were both in the same city at the same time (albeit briefly) made us bith change our plans to enable us to have a swift pint and swap stories outside Piccadilly station before heading off in different directions across the Pennines. Manchester was absolutely buzzing as people streamed into the city to enjoy what promises to be a warm and sunny weekend. I’d have loved to have done the same but I have other fish to fry. Right now I’m ahead of schedule having caught a Northern service to Blackburn via Todmorden where I’ll pick up another (earlier) train. At least this way I escape the Stygian gloom of Victoria’s through platforms for Pennine views.

18:30.

Home again and time for a complete change of tempo – and clothing. The camera bag’s been ditched and so have the walking boots. Now it’s time to shower, don a shirt. slip on the brogues and get ready for a night out with friends at Café Thai in nearby West Vale.