And we’re off! Well, I would been much earlier if I hadn’t been kicking my heels in Huddersfield for the past hour. As I’m handicapped by a suitcase and Dawn was driving in to Huddersfield so kindly offered to give me a lift I decided to head to Harwich this way.
What I hadn’t bargained on was Trans-Pennine Express excerable timetable. Forget the 5 trains an hour of the real timetable. Leeds are now hourly. I’d actually have been better sticking to Northern via Halifax. Ho hum…
Even so, i’m in no hurry. My ferry doesn’t leave Harwich until 23:00 so I’ve plenty of time to get there. Despite running such a wafer-thin service TPE still can’t run to time. The 12:10 arrived and left 7 minutes late. It’s a 6-car service that’s an all-stopper and it’s rammed. Some people have come from Manchester Airport with humongous suitcases which isn’t exactly helping.
After the schlep from Huddersfield it’s a relief to be on LNER’s 13:05 from Leeds to Kings Cross. This is another busy train but I’ve managed to blag a table – for now anyway. The reservation system’s kaput so I might get turfed out at Wakefield or Doncaster.
All’s well that ends well. Whilst we’ve picked up a load more passengers at both Wakefield and Doncaster no-one came forward to claim my table. Now we’ve just left Newark so it looks like I should be safe as far as my destination – Peterborough – as there’s plenty of spare capacity. I note from the news that people have been told not to travel to London to join the crowds queuing to pay their last respects to the Queen, so I don’t expect to encounter anyone on any of my trains today.
Another train, another operator. Now I’ve swapped my fancy intercity ‘Azuma’ for an example of BRs finest “garden shed engineering” as the Class 158s were once described due to the many faults that bedevilled the first examples. Mine is one of East Midlands Railway’s fleet of 2-cars with high-backed seats but no USB or power-points, which is a retrograde step in this day and age.
I’m now kicking my heels for an hour at the sleepy little junction of Ely. There’s not much happening here of a Sunday, so the local Starling population has found a different use for the overhead wires.
I enjoyed my break at Ely. Even on a Sunday the station has both a shop and cafe on platform 1 that remain open so I had time for a ‘swifty’ and chance to get a few pictures before moving on. Now I’m on what’s regarded by many (including myself) as the best modern train on the UK network, the Stadler Class 755 bi-modes. Swiss engineering at its best. They’re comfortable, have level access, a variety of seating configurations and plug-sockets and USB ports at every seat. Their performance is just as good too, they shift like sh*t off the proverbial shovel!
As you can see, this is a quiet train. A fair few got off at the newly reopened station at Soham which was good to see, otherwise this feels very much like a Sunday afternoon service.
I’m getting closer to escaping…
I swapped trains yet again at Stowmarket, mainly for one purpose. I’ve always had an interest in railway architecture in general but signalboxes in particular and I’ve never managed a picture of the abandoned example at Stowmarket until now.
I only had a few minutes to wait before my next train which was a case of swapping to the Stadler 755s bigger Intercity brother to get me to Ipswich where I took another short photographic break and went from the sublime to the ridiculous. Greater Anglia has the best train fleets but it also has one of the worst. Yet it’s brand new – and units are still being delivered!
Is that the time? Apologies for the blogging gap but I’ve always been on the move and sometimes it’s about experiencing things so that you can write about them later. Right now I’m sitting on the ferry from Harwich to the Hook of Holland waiting for departure time. I’ve not done this trip for so, so long. In fact the last time I did this the film they were showing was the then blockbuster ‘Flash Gordon’ with a soundtrack by Queen and the famous line from the actor Brian Blessed (delivered in his customary gusto) “Gordon’s alive!”. Gosh, so many things have changed since then. In those days I was hoping to make a home in Amsterdam with my girlfriend of the time. It never worked out but I’ve no regrets. It all seems like a different world. Mind you, so does this ferry. It’s massive compared to what I remember from those days. I’m on the ‘Stena Britannica’ and even have a cabin – but only because they’re mandatory nowadays. In the 1980s we used to get on as foot passengers and just curl up in a corner.
I arrived in Harwich in plenty of time and had chance to explore. It’s funny how things work out sometimes. I’d not been around this neck of the woods for years then end up here twice in the space of twelve months! Harwich Town’s a curious place that’s worth exploring because of it’s history and architecture, but like a lot of UK seaports it’s lost its mojo. The days of the train ferries are long gone. Now the port’s been eclipsed by Felixstowe due to the move to containerisation. Like this.
Still, I’m looking forward to leaving Brexit Britain and the social and political museum the country’s fast becoming. The next week is going to be very different. And this ain’t a bad way to get there either..
We’ve left port and we’re on our way, so it’s time for me to sign off until tomorrow. See you on the other side as they say…
I’ve a small favour to ask…
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