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11:10.

I’m working in Shropshire and North Wales tomorrow but it’s going to be a long day with an early start, so I’m making my way from West Yorkshire to Shrewsbury as I’ll be staying this evening in readiness for the first trip of the day. I’ll be meeting up with an old friend and colleague as it’s a two-person job. Right now I’m on my way to Chester aboard the direct train from Sowerby Bridge. Northern introduced hourly direct Leeds – Chester via Halifax trains in October 2019. It’s a very useful service as it provides a direct connection with the West Coast Main Line (WCML) at Warrington Bank Quay, as well as making it easier to get to North Wales. My service is worked by a pair of 2-car CAF built Class 195s, which are staple traction on the route. Modern trains like this add to its attraction. I’ve a table so set up the mobile office. Sadly, this particular unit isn’t in the best of health. There’s no working power sockets and the passenger information system’s lost! It’s half a dozen stations behind where it really is, so it’s announcing we’re about to arrive in Sowerby Bridge whilst our next stop’s actually Manchester Victoria! I’m travelling in the front car of the leading unit. Loadings are good, between 65-70% from what I can see, although I expect that figure to drop after Manchester.

The weather’s still grey and gloomy this side of the Pennines. Hardly ideal for photography as skies will be completely washed-out in pictures. Even so, I’ll be stopping off a couple of times en-route on my roundabout way to Shrewsbury in order to get some pictures, so expect a few shots to appear later.

11:30.

We’ve just left Newton-le-Willows and my train’s busy again thanks to a goodly number of people joining us at this rebuilt station. The facilities have really improved since the new building and lifts replaced the long staircases that used to be the only way to reach the platforms, but it’s sad to see the original building boarded up and unused.

12:00.

During our stop at Warrington Bank Quay I grabbed the chance to move tables and found working power sockets. Hurrah! The Only downside is I’m now sat over the leading bogie. The 195s are known for rough-riding and this unit (007) is no different. I’ve already had a couple of spine-jarring thumps as we’ve passed over rough track joints. Passing the freight yards at Warrington was rather a sad sight as they’re nowhere near as busy as they once were as the coal traffic that provided a lot of their business has disappeared – as have the rakes of hopper wagons that moved the stuff. Now many of the sidings are disused, the deep patina of rust on the railhead giving away the fact they’ve not been used for a long time.

14:00.

Well, that’s been a busy couple of hours. I’m still at Chester and will write more about my experiences later when I’m on the move again. In the meantime, here’s a few photos showing the variety I’ve observed. Right now I’m having a few minutes in the warm as it’s bleedin’ Baltic out on the station!

A pair of Transport for Wales Class 153s, aka ‘Dogboxes’ sit in one of the bays underneaththe truncated station roof before working a service to Liverpool Lime St.
An old friend. This class 150 used to work Silverlink services on my local line in London before moving on. First to GWR, and now Northern. In the background is a Merseyrail electric class 507.
The venerable Class 507s were introduced by British Rail back in 1978 but like many old BR fleets they’re living on borrowed time. Covid delayed their demise, but you won’t see sights like this for much longer.
New CAF built 3-car 197101 in between test runs, having worked in from Llandudno Junction.
Freight along the North Wales coast has been a rarity for many years now, so seeing stone trains from Penmaenmawr return is a welcome sight. Here’s Colas 60076 working a loaded train to Tuebrook in Liverpool.
The obligatory ‘but no-one’s travelling by train, they’re all working from home’ shot. A TfW Class 158 swops hordes of passengers en-route to Holyhead.

15:30.

I left Chester aboard another train which is reaching the end of its current career. In fact, unless DfT start making some sensible decisions it may even be the end of its career. Here’s Avanti West Coast ‘Voyager’ 221107 at Crewe, where it carried me to from Chester. These trains are only 20 years old but they’re soon to be rendered surplus by new-build bi-mode trains from Hitachi.

Ivwasn’t in Crewe long, less than 20 mins as I caught TfWs 15:09 to Milford Haven which will take me to Shrewsbury. Sadly, the weather remains grim. The sun did threaten to break through at Chester, but not here. This service is a 3-car Class 175, yet another fleet soon to be displaced. It’s packed, so yet again i’m exiled to a vestibule. What I found interesting was my fellow travellers. I’m sharing the vestibule with a young lady who’s just flown in from Malaysia. Meanwhile, the saloon luggage racks are rammed with suitcases carried by an extended family who’ve also just arrived via Heathrow. Why they’ve chosen this train’s a mystery…

16:00.

Journey’s end for me for the moment. Now it’s time to check into my hotel. Relax for a while and meet up with Pip…

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