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10:15.

It’s a gloriously sunny day here in the Pennines – albeit a tad chilly at the moment due to a breeze that’s knocking a good few degrees of the ambient temperature. As I’d a lunchtime appointment at Milnesbridge in the neighbouring Colne valley I’d decided to make a day of it and head out early with the camera to get some pictures at the same time. Having strolled into Halifax to catch the train I’d just arrived at the station when my phone rang and the people I was meant to be seeing called off the meeting due to staff sickness. Ho hum! So, I’m now at a looser end…

The weather’s far too good to go back to the office. Instead, I’m on a half-full 3 -car Class 195 heading to Manchester whilst plotting what my next move is going to be. Feel free to keep popping back to see what I get up to and where…

11:00.

I arrived in Manchester without a plan but one soon came together after 10 minutes of checking the internet and social media. I was torn between a couple of ideas but the fact a friend from Ireland who’s travelling the UK on a railrover ticket had a visit to Wigan on his itinerary swung it for me. I’m now sat on a rather pedestrian Class 150 heading west to Southport.

The Stygian gloom of Victoria’s through platforms under the Manchester Arena is hardly a place you’d want to linger on a bright sunny day. Thankfully, I didn’t have to. The train approaching is the 10:50 to Southport, which has whisked me away from here. It’s about to pass 150003, one of Northern’s reformed sets made up by adding an extra car to a 2-car set to emulate the first 2 prototype Class 150s.

The service I’m on is an ‘all shacks’ stopper which calls at every blade of grass en-route. Stations with exotic names like Moses Gate, Kearsley, Westhoughton, Hoscar and Meols Cop. It passes from areas once dominated by the old coalfields, power stations and cotton mills to cross the West Lancashire plains and rich farmland to reach the coast. It’s actually a fascinating trip through time and one day (when I finally have enough time) I’m going to write a historical route guide as it really deserves one. Nowadays you’d have no idea what it used to like like when I was a boy. Even I struggle to remember sometimes!

12:35.

I’m now enjoying Wigan (or Wiggin as the locals pronounce it). No – seriously! I know I’ve been somewhat unkind about the place in the past as (like any old industrial town) it has its problems, but it is a friendly place and certainly has its recent upsides if you’re a fan of real ale. The area around the stations is graced with two cracking pubs. The restored and reopened Swan opposite North Western station (you can see it from passing trains) and ‘Wigan Central’ in the arches underneath North Western. Plus, the local Community Rail Partnership has commissioned a local artist who’s decorated the station subway with an attractive guide to the local lingo…

Ironic, I keep mentioning how glorious the weather is but all my pictures are taken underground! Here’s on taken above ground at Wigan North Western to redress the balance.

A Euston bound 9-car Pendolino calls at Wigan North Western earlier today.

20:00.

Apologies for the interregnum in blogging but it’s been a busy day. I arranged to meet my Irish friend in ‘Wiggin’ after which we explored local lines familiar to but unfamiliar to him. Hence us ending up in Rainford. on the Wigan – Kirby line. Unless you knew about this route’s history you’d never guess it was a former main line – unless you understand how railways were built and notice there wasn’t a single level-crossing on the route which also has some heroic earthworks and structures in order to make it as level as possible.

We stopped off at Rainford to get some shots of trains, admire the work of the local station friends – and have a pint at the adjacent local hostelry. Well, it would’ve been rude not to! The pub has some wonderful photographs from the 1960s when Rainford was a triangular junction – an era long gone.

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