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09.05.

We’ve another warm, foggy and wet morning here in the Calder valley, but I’m hoping to avoid a soaking as I was down to Sowerby Bridge station to head off to Southport for the day. I’m looking forward to having a day away from the valley and enjoy some coastal air. Let’s see how the trip goes…

Having strolled down to Sowerby Bridge under clearing skies I’ve discovered my train to Manchester is 7 mins late. It’s no big deal as I won’t miss my connection, it’s just frustrating!

Eventually, a vintage Class 158 working the Leeds – Brighouse – Walkden – Wigan Wallgate route arrived. I’m not complaining. It’s warm and cosy with USB sockets to keep my phone charged up.

The day begins…

This 3-car service isn’t particularly busy but we’re an all stations stopper as far as Rochdale so it’ll soon fill up.

En-route I couldn’t help but play a couple of songs by Terry Hall of the Specials and Fun Boy Three. He’s died at the age of 63 (my age). I’ve always been a lover of his music as he was another who helped provide the soundtrack to my life. Two songs especially stick in my mind, ‘Our lips are sealed’ is one but the tune that really resonates is ‘Ghost town‘, written by Jerry Dammers back in 1981. It summed up the turmoil and troubles of the Thatcher years with recession and racism rife. Troubles that (until recently) we thought we’d seen the back of – but now both are making a return. Now I can see the reflections of those years in the shuttered shops I pass in towns and cities up and down the country – and that I’m sure I’ll be seeing later.

09:40.

Right now we’ve crossed over the border into Lancashire to call at Smithy Bridge. As expected, the train’s very busy now. Dozens boarded at Littleborough and I’m expecting us to be almost full and standing after our next stop – Rochdale.

09:44.

We’ve departed from Rochdale. I gave up my table seat to stand and observe and – as I expected – we’re now full and standing.

10:20.

I’m now on my way to Southport aboard one of Northern’s bi-mode (25kv and diesel) Class 769s after a game of ‘guess the platform’ at Manchester Victoria where two of the four through platforms were blocked by cold and dead TPE class 185s. It seems TPE are having another torrid day. I’ll find out details when I can. As that TOC puts a lot of trains through the station nowadays they bugger-up Northern services when things go wrong – which is frequently!

TPE using half of Victoria’s through platforms as stabling!

Of course, this wouldn’t have been an issue before BR vastly reduced the size of the station in the 1990s and destroyed its capacity, a decision that’s come back to haunt us in the 21st century.

11:00.

I’m West of Wigan now, about to cross the West Lancashire plain to get to Southport. My 319 successfully changed from electric to diesel power at Bolton. Now it’s spending the rest of the trip trying to shake itself to bits! I’m in toilet car 71805 where there’s a reaonance effect that’s rattling the hell out of the luggage rack above me. The hopper windows aren’t liking it either. A couple of them have popped open of their own accord! Part of the problem is the rack on my side of the train isn’t braced – unlike the adjacent one.

The poles make all the difference…

At Southport the Merseyrail side of the station boasted trains old and new. The BR built Class 507-508 fleets are still in charge of all passenger services but the future is stabled in the sidings…

Wi

16:00.

My flying visit to Southport’s come to an end earlier than expected due to my Sister being unwell. I still managed to have lunch with my Niece (Charlotte) and her husband (Ade) – even though he could only join us for his lunch-break from work! Charlotte and I both share the same ‘itchy feet’ travel gene and the three of us will next be meeting up in SE-Asia in January. Co-ordinating the trip was one of the reasons for my visit as it’s part of the world I know really well, along with the logistics of travel. The rendezvous is being made all the more challenging as they fly into Bangkok a few days before I fly into Singapore but that’s only 887 miles difference compared to 7,000 – and you can do it overland! Another thing that Charlotte and I share is a love of Asian food so I’m looking forward to introducing her to some of the Malaysian cuisines – including Nonya food.

There was no reason for me to hang around afterwards, so I’ve caught another bi-mode Class 319 Eastwards. I sat in exactly the same place as the last unit, just to see if the vibration problem happened again. It did, but nowhere near as bad.

769456 works the 15:05 from Southport to Manchester Oxford Rd. Seen at Wigan Wallgate where I bailed out.

Now I’ve stopped off in Wigan for a quick pint in Wigan Central to let the light change so I can do some night-time photography. Well, that’s my excuse – and I’m sticking to it!

17:00.

Oh, bugger…

19:45.

Despite the cancellations I made it back to Manchester’s Deansgate station then wandered across the city centre, getting a few pictures en-route before stopping off for a pint and a spot of people-watching. It’s the Xmas party season but even so – the city seems far more subdued than previous years. This impression was reinforced by the number of almost empty restaurants I passed. Clearly, the amount of money in circulation isn’t what it was which is hardly surprising considering what’s going on in the country right now. If you’re striking for more pay (and many are) you’re hardly going to be blowing what money you have left.

I’m now ln the 19:23 from Victoria to Leeds. It’s yet another busy train but there’s little revelry on the train. Most folk seem to be returning from work or coming home for Christmas ahead of the next round of rail strikes.

21:30.

Home again (naturally). Time for some good food and chance to relax before another busy day tomorrow.

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