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Well, more like ‘half-day away’ really but that doesn’t have the same ring to it!

Monday’s dawned bright and sunny here in the Pennines. I apent the morning working from home but at lunchtime I had an appointment at our Doctors in Sowerby Bridge to have blood taken as part of a regular personal MOT. Being thorough, my GP had arranged for a panoply of tests so when I saw the nurse she wanted four different vials. Not quite Tony Hancock’s famous armful, but still…

I was in and out in no-time so decided to make the most of the weather by heading over to Manchester to get some pictures, including Transport for Wales new Class 197s which are starting to appear on a regular basis. You may have read the recent train test that my old friend Pip Dunn and I did in RAIL magazine. Our opinion? They’re good units and certainly an improvement on some of TfWs ex-BR fleets.

Right now I’m on one of those old BR sets which is still working for Northern. 3-car 158757 is on the 13:02 Sowerby Bridge to Wigan Wallgate.

Pre Covid you’d have been more likely to find a 2-car ‘Pacer’ railbus on this diagram. Now we have the luxury of a 90mph air-conditioned train with tables and USB chargers! OK, call me weird but I admit – I do miss the railbuses!


Having taken the ‘scenic’ route via Salford Crescent to change trains I’ve wended my way via acres of new multi-story developments to arrive at Manchester Oxford Rd where this beast was sitting in the bay in-between working services to Southport. The ex-Thameslink Class 319s (and those converted to bi-mode Class 769s) have worked Northern services for nany years now but I still can’t quite get used to the fact after spending over two decades travelling on them around London.

16:45. I’ll catch-up with blogging shortly but I’ve been on the move quite a bit so writing’s been rather difficult. Right now I’m taking a quick break in the city centre to upload a couple of camera pictures before returning to Piccadilly. I realised I’d not really spent much time at the station in recent years as I’m normally just passing through. Today’s chance to make amends. The variety of units has certainly changed as Northern’s new CAF built trains have taken over many services, plus, there’s these new arrivals for Transport for Wales…

197002 works a Manchester Airport to Llandudno service at Manchester Piccadilly
TfW’s 197009 heads in the opposite direction shortly afterwards.


I’m now relaxing at home after a few hours in Manchester watching the new trains go by. As I mentioned earlier, the rail scene at Piccadilly has changed due to so many of Northern’s CAF built diesel and electric fleets usurping older traction. You can still find the older BR built Class 150 and 156 diesels, and the electric Class 323s, but the 319s were noticeable by their absence – as were the Transport for Wales Class 175s but that’s mainly because so many of them are out of service now. Instead, TfW are sending older Class 150s on epic journeys from as far away as Milford Haven! The new Class 197s seem to be confined to Manchester Airport – North Wales coast services – for now, anyway.

Here’s another couple of shots to reflect the contrasts.

From left to right. One of the old stalwarts in the shape of Hunslet built Class 323 number 323233 heading for Glossop passes a CAF built DMU (195113) whilst an identical (bar the fact it’s electric, not diesel) CAF built 331023 heads for Manchester Airport.
Here’s another CAF product, this time it’s one of Trans-Pennine Express’ Class 397 ‘Civity’ fleet in the shape of 397008 heading for Manchester Airport with a service from Glasgow Central. First Group will lose TPE from May 28th when the operation will be taken back ‘in-house’ by the Dept of Transport, who will run it via their ‘operator of last resort’ – Directly Operated Railways (DOR).

I’m hoping to get out and about again tomorrow, only this time head further East. Watch this space…

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