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08:50.

I’m off to Reading on a fine and sunny autumn morning, which is a welcome change from all the wet weather we’ve been having recently. It certainly made walking to Halifax station far more pleasant! Despite being awake since the early hours (I often am when setting off on a trip) I left slightly later than planned so as not to disturb ‘the missus’ who’s not been sleeping too well recently.

The view across the Clader Valley as I slogged up the hill to Halifax this morning.

So, I’m now on a heroically late 07:52 Blackpool – York service. A signal fault en-route meant this 3-car Class 195 didn’t depart until 08:35, 42 minutes late! Still, it’s warm and not too crowded, so I’ve bagged a table to set up the mobile office and begin blogging. Let’s see how the rest of the journey goes…

‘Delay repay’ anyone?

09:30.

And relax! I’m now on an LNER ‘Azuma’ service to Kings Cross. This 10-car train originated in Bradford and it’s certainly busy. Most of the remaining empty seats are reserved for later in the journey so I expect it to be packed by the time it arrives in London. Still, I’ve blagged a table as far as Grantham so I can have a breakfast roll (or ‘teacake’ if you’re from Yorkshire, ‘barmcake’ if from Lancashire) and enjoy watching the world flash by the window whilst I do.

09:50.

We’re pulling out of Doncaster where dozens of people crammed into my coach, so I guess my guess this train will be full by London’s come true earlier than expected. Three bays are reserved from Grantham, which will come as a surprise to the people who’ve occupied the seats and not noticed! If the large group who’ve made the reservations turn up this could be fun! I’ll be gone by then as I’m moving to the other unit as soon as we arrive!

10:30.

My Grantham set-swop proved to be a wise choice. There was a big party of elderly people waiting to join us when we pulled in. Whilst it’s not unusual for individual reservations to be unused, such a big grouping is normally taken up. I can only imagine the chaos in the car when they descended on their reserved seats! I was long gone, having skipped into the rear set as soon as we arrived. There were far less reservations here and I managed to secure a table seat opposite a young lady busily bashing keys on her laptop. I’s say the rear set’s about 70% full, which makes for decent loadings when the front set’s jammed. And we haven’t stopped at Stevenage yet – where I’m going to bail out again, this time to catch a Thameslink service down to Farringdon. The cross-platform interchange here saves mucking around walking through two mainline stations and sets of ticket barriers at Kings Cross and St Pancras.

I’ve not traversed the ECML in daylight for a while, so I was surprised to see how many fields are flooded – a testament to all the heavy rain we’ve had in the North. Combined with the blue skies we’ve got today it would have made ideal conditions for lineside photography and reflection shots. Ho hum!

15:00.

Sorry for the gap but I’ve been busy. I’m now in the leafy Thames Valley (yep, even this time of year the trees are hanging on to their fiage). Getting here was fun. My Thameslink connection worked well so I was at Farringdon in no time. Then it was a fast walk down steps and escalators to get to the “Lizzie line” and a train Westwards to Paddington. Considering Crossrail has only been open a few months the passenger loadings are excellent.

Whilst I could’ve got a train straight through idecided to stop off at Paddington for a while – just for old times sake as I rarely visit nowadays. When I lived in London it was an old haunt as it was the gateway to the Thames valley, where we often went cycling, or further trips to the SouthWest.

Thames valley service have changed out of all recognition now. Not only is the route electrified but the GWR services are interspersed with Elizabeth line services that (as the old name implied) cross London, bypassing Paddington.

21:45.

What a fascinating but rather surreal day. Most of it was spent exploring Thames valley rail services which made me appreciate just how much has changed. Nearly all of it’s been for the better, although I mourn the old overall roof at Maidenhead that used to cover the branch line to Marlow. So few of these Great Western features have survived. I ventured West of Reading to catch an electric train to Newbury, which was a first for me. It’s an instructive lesson in how previous Government Ministers and the Dept of Transport have made penny-pinching decisions that make absolutely no sense in the long-term. But long-term isn’t a concept in many politician’s minds. On arrival at Newbury I hung around as the next train back to Reading was 30 mins away. In the meantime passengers from London to Bedwyn (the limit of GWR regional services) had to change to a DMU for the rest of the journey, which takes all of 19 minutes. Madness.

A waste of resources, much?

Now I’m relaxing in my hotel in Reading, editing pictures from today and (half) watching some memory lane TV. Flicking through the channels I discovered the Kenny Everrett video show – a programme I loved which has taken me straight back to my youth which has helped make this trip very much the old football analogy of ‘ a game of two halves’.

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