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The past few days have seen lots of activity at Bigland Towers here in West Yorkshire but some of it has been mundane and hardly worth blogging about – hence my recent absence. I’m not going to bore you (more than I have to) about everyday to-ing and fro-ing but there have been some highlights.

On Friday evening a bunch of us met up for a meal and what was supposed to be a planning session for a forthcoming trip to Berlin. Originally, the trip was meant to have been another outing for our little gang known as the ‘six from the 6’ (the Big 6 being the pub where we met) in May 2020 but Covid put the mockers on that – then one of our august company – Tony Allen – succumbed to cancer before we could make it happen. Now we’re the ‘five from the 6’ and will be in Berlin in May, a trip that will no doubt involve raising a few glasses to our departed friend.

The meal was at the Cafe Thai restaurant in nearby West Vale and a lovely time was had by all. So much so we’ve had to arrange another planning meeting to talk about all the stuff we forgot to talk about. (nice excuse! Ed.)

Thoughts of travel have been boosted by the arrival of spring, lighter nights and warmer weather. I’d packed away a lot of the winter woolies and started to dig out the singlets and eye-up the shorts. That was clearly a bridge too far. The forecast for tomorrow is a couple of degrees about freezing with added sleet and snow. Bugger…

Thankfully there’s nowhere I need to be in a hurry just yet and there’s other games afoot, so let’s see what happens. In the meantime – here’s today’s picture. One of the morning’s tasks was decluttering files and ensuring all my pictures were duplicated, filed correctly and pictures were at the right resolution. In doing so I came across this. It won’t mean much to my non-railway followers, but there’s a fair bit of railway history here.

This is a ‘bubble car’ as these single vehicle trains were known. It’s seen in platform 18 at Euston station on the 3rd June 2008. Both train and platform are long gone. This side of Euston has been demolished to make way for the new HS2 platforms. But what was a ‘bubble car’ doing there?

It was there as it was carrying Virgin trains staff who were route learning the Chiltern line and complex of lines around Willesden which would allow them to operate ‘Blockade buster’ trains from Birmingham to London during a huge closure of the West Coast Main Line. I was lucky enough to be invited along on one of these training runs – hence the picture.

The idea for the ‘blockade busters’ came from Virgin Trains West Coast MD Chris Gibb. As an ex-BR management trainee and lover of the railways he had a deep knowledge of the rail lines around the capital and knew it was possible to run services from Birmingham to Euston – even if it was around the houses. Chris described having to get a rail altas out to convince some of his more skeptical colleagues.

He made it happen and arranged for the training that meant Virgin crews had the route knowledge to operate pairs of diesel Virgin Voyagers throughout the blockade and maintain a rail service rather than rely solely on ‘bustitution’. How times have changed. You won’t see this happening now as rail staff don’t have the route knowledge and no-one will pay for it.

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