Having spent most of yesterday in the office on what was one of the sunniest (and certainly hottest) days of the year, i’m venturing out today. Sod’s Law being what it is, the weather’s nowhere near as good as we have low cloud instead of wall-to-wall sunshine. Hopefully, if the Met Office have got it right the cloud will disappear later.
That suits me as right now I’m on the 08:50 train from Halifax to Huddersfield. Why? I’m off to Specsavers! Having had my usual eye test deferred by Covid it’s time to get my ‘mince pies’ checked out and choose a new pair of glasses. My preaent ones are four years old now. Photographer’s glasses take a beating due to costantly coming into contact with cameras. The lens coatings get worn away and the glass scratched and scored, so it’s time these ones were retired. Besides, it’ll be a week or so before the new ones are ready…
After the Opticians (and if the weather’s right) I plan to spend a few hours at the lineside getting some pictures. I’m not sure where yet, that depends on the sun – so let’s see what happens.
My service to Huddersfield’s being worked by 150274, a unit that’s worked in Yorkshire all its life. It’s been refurbished and had USB sockets and PIS screens fitted, so it’s in good nick. It’s also empty. The handful of people who got on with me at Halifax detrained at Brighouse, leaving me on my lonesome!
As train times and available appointment times were out of sync I’ve time to hang around at the station getting a few shots. Until recently the stabling sidings were always full of surplus Nothern units that weren’t needed due to the Covid downturn. Today the yard’s empty, which augurs well. All there is to admire is the massive, multi-storey bulk of the old goods warehouse in the background.
Watching the procession of Trans-Pennine Express services as they arrive and depart it’s plain passenger numbers are picking up. Some of them are busy and it’s noticable that 1st Class (which suffered the biggest collapse in numbers) is seeing people return as business travel returns.
My eye-test revealed that my eyes are perfectly healthy, which is always good news. They didn’t pick up any other underlying health problems either. As an extra precaution I paid to have my Retinas scanned and mapped which provides a health template for the future. As usual, the Specsavers staff were both professional and friendly with no pressure put on me to buy expensive frames or extras. I chose an new lightweight frame to house the thin lenses I’d ordered. They don’t look very different to my old ones really, they’re simply a slightly different shape.
Back at the station I spotted that the famous station cafe on the East end of the island platform had reopened, so I couldn’t resist popping in for one of their delicious, freshly cooked bacon rolls. The lovely couple who run it were both there so we swapped stories as we’ve not seen each other since the start of the pandemic. It’s great to see them back. The cafe was always one of the station’s hubs with a regular throughput of passengers and railstaff passing through. They reopened just 9 weeks ago and are finding it hard to build back the business. Passengers are returning but many have changed their routines, bypassing businesses that relied on them. Getting them back is a challenge. So, if you do pass through Huddersfield remember they’re there and pop in for a drink and a snack and enjoy one of the few remaining traditional family run station cafe’s left on the network.
Apologies for the gap in blogging but I’ve been on the move non-stop since leaving Huddersfield. Looking at the weather I decided tp bolt across the border into Lancashire for a few hours and recce the forthcoming Trans-Pennine route upgrade engineering work that will be taking place on the route to Stalybridge, so I caught a train to Manchester Victoria then retraced my steps towards Ashton-Under-Lyne by tram just for the sheer variety! I’ve not spent much time on Metrolink for some time, so it was a good opportunity to update the library with images of street-running trams and their place in the pecking order. Frankly, I could have done with some air-conditioning on the vehicles, most of which were very busy. Unlike the national rail network the number of people who’re still wearing masks is much lower. Despite the weather, I maintained mine. One thing that struck me as we pootled along the streets of Droylesden was how many shops remained closed. There were all sorts, fast-food joints, nail bars, restaurants – small businesses of all kinds. I’m assuming more than a few have been put out of business by the pandemic and will never reopen. It was a very sad sight.
Once out at Ashton I walked over to the nearby Ashton Moss North Junction where a road overbridge offers decent views and a new housing estate right next to the line adds perspective. Sadly, by this time the clouds were rolling in and I lucked out on a few shots. The weather felt like it could thunder any time, so I kept an eye out on the skies to make sure I didn’t get caught out. There’s no signs of electrification mast bases on this section yet, but there’s a large compound next to the railway on Richmond St which contractors have established and stocked with equipment – including mast piles. I expect progress will be made during the blockade when the line will be under a possession with trains diverted. Here’s a Northern Class 150 working from Southport – Stalybridge past Ashton Moss North Junction with the compound seen to the right, next to the trackside access.
Here’s a view looking the other way from the bridge. TPE’s 802206 is passing the new housing estate (barely 4 years old) with a service from Liverpool Lime St to Newcastle. This was the site of Old Ashton and Guide Bridge Junction, where the line to Guide Bridge trailed off to the right towards the camera. The Junction was closed in 1991. The site beyond the Junction (also on the right) was the site of the LNWR Oldham Rd goods depot which closed much earlier in 1966. It’s now the site of a Sainsbury’s and other supermarkets. The new housing makes me crack a wry smile when I think of those opposed to HS2 saying ‘no-one wants to hear the noise of a railway’! No doubt I’ll be popping back here on a regular basis now to document the march of the electrification masts.
Moving on to Ashton itself I caught a train through to Stalybridge where I resisted the temptation to visit the station buffet (believe me – that was a struggle on a hot day like today!). Staying just long enough to get a few pictures I made my way back into Manchester before heading back home. I’m currently on the 16:58 Victoria to Leeds which is very busy indeed.
Time to bring the day to a close. I’ve spent part of the evening editing today’s pictures, so here’s a sample. A Manchester Metrolink tram approaches Ashton West with IKEA dominating the skyline beyond. I’ll add a few more pictures and some text to this blog tomorrow. Right now I’m going to try and get some sleep on what’s another hot and humid night…
I’ve a favour to ask…
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