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09:20.

Bloody typical! We’ve had glorious sunshine these past few days whilst I’ve been at home, but today – when I’ve a day out the weather is the South is grey, wet and miserable! I’d planned to be out and about taking pictures for a client but the scenic pictures they want are incompatible with the conditions. So, I find myself on a busy 4-car Class 450 working the 08:50 from Farnham to Waterloo whilst I rejig my plans. I’m heading into the capital, then heading East where the weather’s meant to be clearing from. A vague plan is forming in my mind but we’ll see…

Feel free to keep popping back to see where I go and what I get up to.

10:45.

The trip into London was fine – even if the weather wasn’t. The service was short-formed but the rush was over by the time the train was running. I’d have made an earlier on if it wasn’t for the fact Dawn was dropping her nephew off at school first and Farnham was chocked with traffic, ironic when some people insist that we don’t need to improve public transport and build railways like HS2 because everyone’s supposedly still working from home!

Once in London I dashed to Waterloo East and caught a train to London Bridge where I was going to buy some breakfast but the queue at the Greggs was so long I gave it up as a bad job.

Waterloo’s concourse post rush-hour is still busy.

Right now I’m on a quite SouthEastern service heading out to a place I haven’t visited for years – Abbey Wood, which is about to develop a new life from next week when it become a Crossrail terminus. I’m sorry, but I really can’t get into calling Crossrail the Elizabeth Line. Sorry your Maj, but it’s part of the national network, it’s not a glorified tube line. Besides, I suspect if any name does stick it’ll be the ‘Lizzy Line’ which is far less cumbersome!

Passing through old haunts in SE London I’m stuck by how much has changed in the 12 years since I moved away. There’s new building everywhere. What a far cry from when I moved to London back in 1986 when the city was still in decline and the population was steadily shrinking. In those days the reputation of some of the areas I’m passing through was rough to say the least. In Bermondsey it was said even the rottweilers walked around in twos!

11:10.

There’s still something slightly surreal about suddenly seeing overhead wires appearing outside the train window – and then the twin tracks of Crossrail emerging from their tunnels to run parallel all the way into a rebuilt Abbey Wood station. Crossrail Class 345s were much in evidence running the shadow service in preperation for next week’s public opening.

I didn’t hang around at Abbey Wood as the weather’s still crap. Instead I decided to do some recce’s for other pictures as I’ve spent very little time along this line in recent years.

13:30.

I’m currently taking a break in rainy Rochester after travelling as far East as Gillingham where I stopped off to grab a sandwich. I’ve known the town since 1990 when I often used to pop over from London of a weekend to photograph the variety of traction that would be stabled here then. All that’s long gone. The town looked pretty run down then. It’s fortunes haven’t improved. I braved the torrential rain and flooded main street (blocked drains on both sides) to find a Greggs. It was a depressing experience. Shops are boarded up and empty and the dereliction has spread to the population. Just 15 minutes walking down the High St let me see there’s an awful lot of deprivation and health problems here. People who believe the hypes that Kent is the ‘garden of England’ have never visited Chatham and Gillingham! I doidn’t hand around after I’d grabbed a couple of pictures. I made my way along a platform flooding due to leaks from the station canopies and headed back to Rochester which has gained a brand-new station since I stopped here last.

Gillingham. It’s grim down South too…

The new 3 platform station at Rochester opened in 2015 and replaced the old cramped one which was further East. It’s been part of a scheme to redevelop the nearby dockland area which was cut off from the town by the railway. Progress has been slow but steady with new housing springing up alongside the railways and the East end of the huge site.

I must admit to liking Rochester. It’s a place with history (hence its castle) literary links (Charles Dickens) and an eclectic mix of shops, restaurants and pubs. It’s also less right-wing than much of the Medway (which is very Brexity), as this artwork by the museum attests to…

I have to agree. And it’s not done the Medway town any favours at all…

21:15.

Apologies for the ‘slight’ intermission but I’ve been non-stop for the past few hours as I made my wat back to Surrey – which is where I’m typing this from. As I left Rochester the weather really began to change making the trip much more enjoyable. I really enjoyed being back along this line, seeing the changes that have – and are – happening. It’s all a far cry from when I first explored the region back in the 1980s!

My first stop was at Gravesend, a station that’s been rebuilt in past years but still retains its Victorian buildings to complement the modern infrastructure such as it’s large cycle hub. Always on the lookout for an elevated view I found a nearby multi-story car park that afforded me this view.

Here’s the other side of the station. My pervious vantage point can be seen in the background.

Moving in once more my next port of call was Dartford – yet another place that’s changed dramatically since I first got to know it 30 odd years ago. The vintage slam door trains are long gone. Even the more recent BR built stuff has been elbowed aside by cascaded Siemens trains like this.

But, the biggest change was when I returned to Abbey Wood, the terminus of Crossrail South of the Thames. 30 years ago I’d never have imagined this far-flung corner of South-East London would have not one, but two cross-London connections. The first to arrive was Thameslink and services between Rainham and Luton, allowing to people to traverse the centre of the capital without changing trains. Now Crossrail’s arrived to add East-West to North South. As a consequence, house prices in Abbey Wood have gone through the roof and the skyline’s following suite – as this picture taken earlier demonstrates.

The changing face of South-East London. A Crossrail train arrives at Abbey Wood with the rising skyline beyond.

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