After my enforced absence due to Covid I’m back on the rails today for the first time in a couple of weeks. It’s nothing terribly exciting – I’m taking a trip over to my birthplace to drop something off for my niece’s husband, but there’ll be time for a few pictures and the change of scenery is certainly appreciated. And who know what might happen?
Right now I’m crossing the Pennines on Northern’s 08:05 from Sowerby Bridge to Wigan North Western which is worked by a pair of Class 158s. Once the ‘top flight’ units in Northern’s inventory these 90 mph trains have been relegated to the 2nd Division by the newer, faster and more nippy CAF built Class 195s. With it being Good Friday there’s no commuters aboard, merely a few family daytrippers and people dragging suitcases who’re away longer. I’ll be interested to see what the footfall looks like at other stations en-route.
Feel free to keep popping back to see how my day unfolds…
08:40. My train’s the ‘all shacks’ stopper which calls at every station on the line, most of which have been very quiet. Having crossed the Pennines I’ve lost the sunshine as Lancashire’s covered in wavy low grey cloud. Add in the fact it’s a chilly start to this bank holiday and I can understand why not many people are venturing out right now – it’s a day for a lie-in! Our stop at Rochdale did manage to generate an extra dozen passengers, many of whom seemed less than enthusiastic to be travelling so I’m assuming they’re shop workers!
As expected, Manchester Victoria was busy with day-trippers making the most of the bank-holiday but I didn’t stop as I was changing trains at Salford Crescent in order to pick up a Southport Service. There were few students about so the station was quiet. The heaviest traffic was for the bird-feeders that station staff have hung up on a station sign. These saw a stream of Pigeons, Tits and Jays taking advantage of the feeding station!
I’m still getting used to seeing electric trains on this route which is a far cry from how it was in my youth. The feeling of oddness is compounded by seeing old friends in the form of ex-Thamelink trains converted to bi-modes plying the route. One of which formed my train to Southport.
Our route was via Bolton where we successfully swapped from electric to diesel power, a transition that doesn’t always go smoothly but teething problems seem to have been ironed out nowadays, reducing the numbers of failures.
Having changed traction we continued to Wigan, calling at the beautifully tended stations of Westhoughton and Hindley bothe of which have gorgeous station gardens maintained by local volunteers.
Wigan Wallgate provided plenty of custom for the train as large groups of families and friends were waiting to take a trip to the seaside. Buckets and spades may be in order, but any suntan lotion will be surplus to requirements!
My neice was waiting for me at the station so the Tux’ was handed over in double-quick time. I didn’t want to stay long but I gave myself long enough for a quick lap of the town centre just to see what had changed. It was all a bit depressing. Many more shops are empty and shuttered, as is another old haunt – the ‘Coronation’ pub opposite the market which has been dying a death for years gas finally expired. I did pop into the indoor market which has changed completely. All the tradional stalls are gone. Instead, a large bar surrounded by tables occupies much of the space. Fast food stalls line two sides whilst on sode’s been opened up to encompass outdoor seating.
I have mixed feelings about the redevelopment. None of the food outlets appeal, it’s all bog-standard, uninteresting stuff (pizza, tex-mex etc) not world cuisine or Asian street food and it’s displaced specialist food stalls – one of which sold a fantastic array of Lancashire cheeses. I’ve no idea where to go to buy those now. Still, Ivwish it well and hope the new market prospers – even if I’ve no reason to visit anymore.
Taking my leave via the same train I arrived on I stopped off at Burscough Bridge to get a couple of pictures. After being derelict for years the old station building’s being renovated. It was a private residence so I’m assuming its finally been bought by someone. It’s a fine old building that’s very much in need of some TLC – which it’s now receiving.
My next stop was at Wigan, a town that was really buzzing as it was match day. Not that I have the faintest clue what sport that involved. To be honest, portly blokes wandering around in very tight copies of team strips was never going to engage my attention. It might be football, it might be rugby, but to be honest, I don’t have a ‘Scooby Do’!
What was nice was the fact the atmosphere was quite relaxed (but then, it’s early doors and no-one’s lost yet). Whilst in Wigan I called in to a hostelry I’d always meant to visit but never got around to. Wigan Central is a large, railway-themed bar that fills two arches under Wigan North-Western station. The bar spills out onto the pavement to give a large outdoor seating area which copes well with events.
I really enjoyed my visit to Wigan, a place I’ve not always flattered (sorry Sheila!) but on this occasion I found the people whom I met and talked to lovely.
Right now I’m heading back to Yorkshire. The weather didn’t pan out quite how I’d have liked so some of the photos I wanted were non-starters. Even so, I’ve ideas for the future. I’ve not expored the old Lancashire and Yorkshire main line via Walkden for years. I’ve always meant to but it’s never been prominent on the list.
Time to bring some closure! I stayed on the train from Wigan all the way home – ish. Lulled into a false sense of security by the fact I was on a Class 195 I ignored the stopping pattern I knew in my head until we pulled out of Sowerby Bridge when the PA announced the next stop as Brighouse, not Halifax. Bugger! On the bright side – I was able to retrace my steps with a 20 minute delay – and there’s a real ale pub right next to the station…
Having met up with Dawn at home the pair of us adjourned to the ‘Big 6’ pub to join friends and enjoy the quiz. As usual our quizmaster bans me from answering the geography questions – much to everyone else’s amusement. It’s not that I’m that encyclopedic (honest), but I have travelled a bit! Dawn and I had a lovely night laughing and joking as you bounce humor off friends – the stuff you miss when you’re isolating. Hopefully, this is the precursor for the Bank Holiday…
I’ve a favour to ask…
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The Anvil is a decent real ale pub a few mins walk from Wigan stations