There’s not much of a blog today, as after travelling over to Southport yesterday, Sunday’s been a much quieter day spent at home, pottering around and catching up on various chores whilst keeping one eye on the weather. We’ve had pretty much everything today. Rain (aplenty), sleet, hailstorms and high winds have all combined to keep us entertained. The one bright spot is that the weather’s been mild. In between the showers I managed to tidy up our front garden leaving it in a fit state to survive the winter, although I couldn’t tackle other areas as the cobbles and stonework’s slippy as hell at the moment after all the rain and the leaf fall. Still, there was plenty do inside the house, making it presentable in readiness for Dawn’s return from her weekend with friends in London.
This evening I’ve had time to edit a few pictures for my Zenfolio website, including this shot of the very first of the old BR built Class 142 ‘Pacers’ which was active West of Manchester yesterday.
Sights like this will very soon be a thing of the past.
Today I’m heading back to Southport, the town where I grew up to see my sister and (belatedly) celebrate her birthday. Needless to say, I’m going by rail, so stay with me and see how the day goes as I’m stopping off on the way (albeit briefly) to visit the friends of Hindley station and their Xmas Fayre…
Having walked down to Sowerby Bridge staion and picked up my coffee from the Jubilee refreshment rooms (in one of their fully biodegradable cups) I’m ready to roll.
Shame the train isn’t. The 11:06 is already 4 mins late. Still, it could have been worse. I could have been waiting for the 11:22 to Chester. That’s been cancelled!
In the end the 11:06 turned up just a couple of minutes late. It’s worked by a schizophrenic Class 150. Number 109 was transferred to Northern from W Midlands Trains. It still bears their livery on the outside but on the inside the seats have the new Nothern mocquette! A 2-car on a Saturday is less than ideal. It’s already full and standing with several busy stations to call at before arrival in Manchester.
I’m still on the same train as it was late into Manchester, so I missed my connection. We’re currently trundling along the old Lancashire and Yorkshire main line from Manchester to Wigan via Atherton. Once four tracked, it passed through a landscape studded with collieries. Now all are gone. I’ve been traversing the route for half a century and remember how industrial the area once was but little remains to stand out now other than the odd red-brick cotton mill.
Having changed trains at Wigan Wallgate I’m now doubling back to Hindley aboard one of an endangerd species. The Northern Rail ‘Pacer’…
This one’s in original condition with the small destination blind and bus-style seats. Personally, I’d rather have one of these than a Class 150, but I know I’m in a minority here!
I’ve had an interesting couple of hours in Hindley. It’s their Christmas market today, so I popped in to say hello to Sheila Davidson of the station friends group, who was looking after a stall there. The community spirit is still strong in this former mining town , as anyone who’s ever met Sheila and the friends of Hindley station will know.
The Xmas market was really busy. There were fairground rides for the kids. A stage on which a young girl with a decent voice was belting out tunes, an inflatable pub and dozens of stalls. One that caught my eye was the Mayflower brewery who’re based in the town. They do a variety of locally themed bottled beers with names like ‘Douglas Valley’ and ‘Wigan Bier’! I tried the Douglas Valley, which is a light, hoppy pale ale and ended up buying some.
My visit was fleeting and I’m now on the train to Southport. One thing I did notice about Hindley was how choked with traffic it was. Cars were queuing all the way from the centre of town as far back as the railway station.
The train I’m on now is one of Northern’s refurbished Class 150s. It’spart of a pair and it’s already in a bit of a state. The seats are dirty, there’s empty beer bottles strewn around and the disabled toilet is out of action – which doesn’t bode well for a Saturday night service!
I’m now onboard yet another Class 150, making my way East to Yorkshire after a lovely afternoon catching up with my sister and an unexpected appearance by my elder brother John. It was far too long since we’ve been together, but life often puts obstacles in the way.
I’ve changed trains at Manchester Victoria, where it’s the usual Saturday night mayhem as passengers (many inebriated) search for their trains. The information screens add to the chaos. I’m now stood on the 21:58 to Leeds, only the PIS was advertising it as the 22:04 to Blackburn until a few minutes before it left, causing the dispatch staff loads of hassle…
22:13.I’m stood in a 75mph ‘Dogbox’ (a single car class 153 to the uninitiated) tacked onto the rear of a 90mph Class 158. Not that it matters much on this route as 90 mph is purely aspirational!
Needless to say, the train’s full – even after calling at Rochdale, but the atmosphere’s jolly. Unusually, nany folk are doing the unheard of nowadays. They’re actually talking (even to strangers) rather than staring, trance-like at their Smartphones.
Today’s been yet another wet and windy day in the Calder valley and one I’ve been glad that I’ve not had to venture afar in. Most of it has been spent working at home, apart from an afternoon ‘constitutional’ stroll along the canal and a trip up to my local pub, the ‘Big 6’ to meet up with friends and take part in the Friday quiz which is read out my Mel, in her broad Lancashire accent. Guessing what she’s saying is almost as challenging as getting the answers right (sorry Mel!). To give you an idea, heard of the film Ben Hur? In a Lancashire accent Hur is ‘hair’!
It was a pleasant interlude and nice to spend time having a laugh with friends as my other half is down in London this weekend with the ‘girls’. Right now I’m having a quiet night in and trying to sort through more old pictures. Looking through them makes me very conscious of how time’s flying by. Recently I’ve been adding hundreds of old rail pictures to my Zenfolio website. What I’ve neglected is the 1000s of travel pictures in my collection. Tonight I came across one of my old portfolios which I used to tout around the national newspapers and travel magazines when I first turned professional and lived in London. The internet was in its infancy then so you used to ring up newspapers and magazines to try and get appointments with their picture editors to show off your pictures. Sometimes it would go well, other times not. The worst were some of the travel magazines where Mummy or Daddy had got someone a job through their connections. I’m naming no names, but I remember turning up at one (well known brand) where the bright young thing didn’t even have access to a loupe or a lightbox, so held up a sheet of slides to one of the overhead fluorescent tubes and said “oh, these are pretty colours”…
Here’s a couple of the pictures from those old portfolios and the story behind them. This is a mother Orangutan and her baby trying to pinch some of the bunch of bananas from her mouth which was taken in the Bukit Lawang sanctuary in Sumatra, Indonesia back in July 1998. We were very privileged to see such amazing creatures in the wild.
Lynn (my ex-wife) and I were travelling around the world for 18 months at the time and spent several months in Sumatra. Then, SE Asia was in the doldrums of their ‘Economic Crisis’ which was terrible for them, but good for us as the value of the pound was amazing. I’d been there a few years before when £1 would get you 3,500 Rupiah. When we were there it would buy you 22,000 Rupiah! I look back on those times and realise just how lucky we were to be travelling then, because so much has changed since. Here’s the next picture, which has a very different tale to tell.
This picture was taken as a wedding in Bhavnagar, which is in the Gujarat state in Western India. It was taken on the 19th February 2000. One of the reasons I like it is the way one young girl was distracted and looked away, but that’s not the full story. Bhavnager isn’t on the tourist trail (far from it).
Lynn and I had been out on holiday in South India but I stayed on to explore the railways as the Gujarat was the last place steam locomotives operated. Sadly, I missed them by a couple of weeks, but that’s another story. Bhavnagar is also where Gandhi went to college, so I was interested in it to get travel pictures too.
Whilst I was there I was invited by this family to attend a wedding. It’s not an uncommon experience and Indian weddings are a delight for photographers like me and also a great way to get to meet local people. But there’s yet another layer to this tale…
On my way home I lost some of my notes, including the family’s address, so I was never able to send them the pictures, or keep in contact. Almost a year later, on the 26th January 2001 an earthquake struck the Gujarat. Measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale and lasting about 110 seconds, it was the most powerful earthquake to strike India in half a century. 20,000 people died and when I see this picture I often wonder what the fate of these young girls was.
I wish I had more time to scan these old slides. There’s so many stories they can tell, and so many memories…
Today started well. We had one of those beautiful sunrises where the sky lights up with an ethereal glow to bless you with some wonderful colours through wispy clouds, heralding the arrival of a new day. It lasted a scant matter of minutes before the light changed to more mundane hues. I managed to grab my camera just in time. Here’s the view from our bedroom window this morning as it was happening.
The day’s also been noticeably milder than of late, making it ideal walking weather. Sadly, that didn’t last long either and this afternoon another weather front moved in, bringing with it gusting winds and rain. Not that it’s mattered to me as I’ve been working from home, ploughing through paperwork and pictures whilst also planning the weekend. Dawn’s off to London to see friends this weekend, leaving me to my own devices, so I’m planning to catch up with some social obligations solo.
This evening we’re off to the Engine in Sowerby Bridge for our second visit in a week. This time it’s to celebrate my Father-in-Law’s 85th birthday, so expect a few food and other pictures to appear later! We’ll be ordering off the ordinary menu this time, rather than having one chosen for us as we did last weekend, which will allow me to illustrate some different dishes. John’s a coeliac and the Engine does a great job of catering for him – as you’ll see from the pictures…
We’re now at home and there’s lots of food pictures to add after yet another lovely night at the Engine. All I will say at this point is happy 85th birthday John Platt, and thank you to his wife, Norah. Oh, and well done to the restaurant for not trying to stick 85 candles into that dessert!
After yesterday’s fun and games gallivanting up and down the West and East coast main lines I’ve had a far more relaxing day catching up with work at home – with nary a real train in sight! It won’t last of course, but it makes for a pleasant interlude. You can find many of the photos from yesterday on my Zenfolio website. Follow this link to see which galleries they’ve been added to as there’s a variety. Here’s one from the end of last night, when my homeward bound Grand Central service was diverted via Hebden Bridge.
Whilst busy editing pictures I’ve been keeping one eye on events in the wider world and the political shenanigans in the UK where we’ve been graced by the presence of the Tango’d Tw*t. Sorry, the President of the United States of America, who’s been rubbing shoulders with other NATO leaders including our very own bouffant buffoon, Boris Johnson. It seems it’s not just ridiculous hairstyles and a proclivity to misogyny the two men share, it’s also an aversion to press conferences and interviews. Both men either cancelled them or cut them short, whilst Johnson is still running scared of and hiding from a BBC interview with Andrew Neil! When these mean are classed as ‘leaders’ of the free world is it any wonder we’re in such a mess?
With all that in mind I filled in my postal vote today. Regular readers will know that I’m advocating voting tactically. There’s hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of us who see themselves as politically homeless at the moment due to the shit-shower on both the Left and Right of UK politics at present. I’ve talked to just as many Tories who’re in that position as I have Labour supporters. There’s no doubt that Brexit and the parade of the dogmatic, venal or talentless politicians that we see on either front bench right now has caused a shift from the old tribal politics. It’s just that none of us know where it’s going to lead when the dust finally settles. So far the election campaign interviews with various politicians have seen more car crashes than the Indianapolis 500. I especially like this one, with the latest in a (very) long line of UKIP leaders!
As a tactical voter I’ve had to hold my nose and consider who is best placed to keep out Johnson and help block Brexit, rather than whom I might prefer to vote for. of course, the decision’s never easy as you may end up voting against a good local candidate, but many voters are now doing what not enough MPs have – and are putting country before party (if they still feel they have allegiance to one). This went into the post tonight, sans stickers of course…
With the latest polls showing a narrowing of the gap between the Tories and Labour and distinct signs that tactical voting is starting to register it looks like we’re in for a very unpredictable election night that could very well provide some more ‘Portillo moments’. I see the Green party have now stood aside in the Chingford seat of arch Brexiter Iain Duncan Smith, who only has a slim majority in a constituency evenly split between Remain and Leave in the 2016 referendum. It’s also rumoured to be looking dicey for another Brexiter and member of the Cabinet, Dominic Raab, in his staunchly remain constituency of Esher and Walton, which would be a major turn-around. I’m not going to expect too much as one can always be let down, but I suspect many of us can think of certain dogmatic MPs who serve no useful function that we’d love to see lose their seats. I wonder if someone shouldn’t produce a Brexit Bingo card with their names on? It would certainly add to the entertainment.
If the polls continue in this vein I’d certainly recommend getting in the popcorn for the night of December 12th, along with something stronger, just in case it’s needed.
Talking of the election but on a different tangent it’s been amusing to see the dwindling band of StopHs2 Nimbys desperately trying to pretend that they’ve still got a dog in the fight and can actually swing the vote in some constituencies. The fact we’ve empirical evidence from every election since 2010 to prove this is nothing but bluster makes no difference, they’re still maintaining that fiction! Quite who they expect to fall for it – other than themselves – is a good question. here’s a classic example from Peter Deeley.
Seriously? No, it’s bluster, Deeley’s timeline reveals that he’s always been intending to vote for the Brexit party. Shame they’re not standing in his constituency, as I’ve blogged about previously here!
OK, enough of politics, I’m off to edit a few more pictures! Goodnight…
I’m back in London today for a book launch and heading down early to do a few other things beforehand. Unfortunately, it’s not a vintage day on the rails. Dawn had a phone-call from a colleague, telling her that they’d be working from home today as a person had been hit by a train at Brighouse, causing many cancellations and uncertainty. This made me change my plans too so I hitched a lift with Dawn into Huddersfield and eschewed the idea of heading down the East Coast by heading for Manchester instead. As usual Trans-Pennine Express services are running late by around 15 mins. The situation doesn’t imorove when the Manchester Piccadilly service I was catching was terminated short at Stalybridge in order to work a service back to Hull. Needless to say, the one following behind it is late too, leaving a lot of disconsolate passengers hiding in the waiting room from the cold weather. The sunshine we had in Yorkshire’s refused to travel this side of the Pennines!
Northern Rail always cop the flak for delays but in my experience TPE are just as bad – yet they seem to escape the same levels of criticism, which has always puzzled me.
The 10:53 has been further delayed until 11:12. To add insult to injury, several TPE’s have passed through on their way to Piccadilly non-stop.
I’m finally on my way to London after taking a slight detour when I got to Manchester. In the adjacent platform was a pair of the old BR ‘Pacer’ trains in original condition with the bus-type seats. As they’ve little time left I took a spin on them out to Guide Bridge in order to get a few pictures.
Now I’m on very different traction, one of Virgin Trains 11-car Pendolino’s which could be my final trip with the company as their franchises ends on Sunday after 22 years. Personally, I’ll be sad to see them go but I’m looking forward to seeing what the new ‘Avanti’ franchise will bring to the network.
We’ve just sped through Nuneaton on our way South and the weather’s picked up again to leave us with a sunny but cold day. My train’s only about 45% full, so I’m sharing a table bay of four with another chap who’s busy bashing away on the keys on his laptop in a similar fashion to me. Most folk in this car seem to be travelling for business, so it’s a very quiet coach. The only noise to be heard is the gentle thrum of the air conditioning as it fights against the exterior temperature to keep the coach warm.
Since arriving in London I’ve been busy taking pictures around Euston station and the nearby streets, documenting the changes that High Speed 2 (HS2) is bringing. That said, the station itself feels very different now it’s full of de-branded Pendolinos and Voyagers. I’ve been taking pictures here since the 1980s and seen several changes over the years, but the scope of HS2 is on an entirely different scale! I’ll add links to all the pictures when I have time, but here’s a couple for now.
Phew! After a busy few hours I’m heading back to Yorkshire with my Grand Central train just pulling into Doncaster. The book launch went really well and was attended my many senior people from across the industry as well as many journalists and safety experts. Here’s a couple of shots from the event.
The fun’s not over yet. It seems the fun and games at Brighouse this morning were actually caused by an engineers train splitting the points at Greetland Jn, leaving the direct route to Halifax unusable. To get around the orobkem my Geand Central service is running to Hebden Bridge, where it’ll reverse and head back to Halifax via Milner Royd Jn.
Another varied week’s kicked off with sub-zero temperatures here in West Yorkshire, leaving me glad that much of the day’s been spent working from home in the warmth as it’s perishing out there! I do have to venture out this afternoon as it’s the Friends of Mytholmroyd stations annual Christmas carol concert. Children from the local schools have return outing on the train to the Jubilee refreshment rooms at Sowerby Bridge to sing carols on and meet Santa Claus, whilst yours truly volunteers to take the pictures. Here’s one from last year. It’s always a jolly event and afterwards the adults adjourn to the Shoulder of Mutton pub in Mytholmroyd for pie and peas and something to keep the cold out!
In an entirely different vein I came across this crass bit of election stupidity on Twitter earlier, posted by Jane Smith, who’s standing in Congleton on an animal rights ticket. She also opposes HS2 and decided that hanging around standing on a foot crossing across a busy railway line near Alsager to have her picture taken would be a good way to try and score political points. Instead she scored an own goal…
To say that people in the rail industry get annoyed at these pictures would be an understatement – as Ms Smith found out after I retweeted it with a critical comment and many rail staff took to Twitter to express both their annoyance and disgust. The tweet has now been deleted. I expect her political career will be just as short-lived.
I’ll blog some more and add a few pictures from tonight’s festivities later today, so watch this space…
It’s been a cracking (if freezing) evening. I headed over to Mytholmroyd in good time to rendezvous with the groups at the station before catching the train. What’s lovely to see with these events is the cross-co-operation between different station friends groups. People from Mytholmroyd, Brighouse and Bentham station friends all turned up on the night as well as staff from Northern Rail. Here’s a few photo’s from the evening.
It feels rather surreal realising that we’re already in December. The year seems to have flashed past so quickly. The arrival of a new month has also seen the return of the sunshine. We’ve a beautifully crisp winters day here in the Calder Valley, although we won’t be seeing much of it as the pair of us are off to Manchester by train to do some Christmas shopping. Hopefully the exercise will work off some of the fantastic food we enjoyed at The Engine last night.
I’ll post a few pictures and comments through the day as time allows.
We’re on our way on a packed 3-car from Sowerby Bridge, with 7 of us sharing a vestibule. At least there’s tip-up seats in the vestibules of these old 158s so it’s not too bad! Mind you, we’ll be calling at several stations on the way, so this train could be quite ‘cosy’ by Manchester…
My prediction came true by Hebden Bridge where dozens more joined us including a cyclist who just managed to squeeze her bike into the last available space.
We added more variety at Todmorden where a chap boarded carrying a 5ft tall Xmas tree, it’s not wrapped up either! Luckily he boarded at the other end of the train!
There’s now 10 of us in this vestibule, including the Conductor, who’s doing the doors from here. To add even more variety whe’ve been joined by several children, including one dressed as the Incredible Hulk, complete with green facepaint!
Thank God we’re ‘fast’ from Rochdale, as there’s not a square inch of space left on this train. The kids are stowed away in the luggage rack and people are holding on to watever they can as we rattle and roll our way into the city…
It’s amazing how many people you can fit on a 158!
I hate shopping at this time of year when the city’s packed. Whilst the atmosphere around the Christmas market is lovely it’s a pain in the arse trying to tour the shops in search of what you want – especially when you can’t find it! In the end we did manage to salvage something from the day and ticked off a couple of items from our lists, but not much! Having exhausted our patience the pair of us adjourned to a favourite haunt in the Northern Quarter for a drink in order to gird our loins for the trip home.
Sadly, our cunning plan backfired as we arrived at the station to see our train was absolutely rammed to the gunwhales, leaving many of us unable to get on. As the next one wasn’t for another jour there was only one option that made sense – another pub and chance to explore a bit more of the Christmas market.
We’re now sat on the 18:57 to Sowerby Bridge, having arrived in plenty of time to get on this time. It was just as rammed on leaving, but we were first in the queue. It’s another 3-car Class 158 which is going to make it popular with the homeward-bound pub crowd later as the toilet door doesn’t lock!
Bliss! We’re finally home in the warm and out of the freezing cold. The mercury’s really dropping tonight and it looks like we’re in for another cold one. The Council’s gritting lorries have been busy and many of the roads have had a layer of salt since the early hours of this morning. I always wonder why it is we still use something so corrosive nowadays. Many of the buildings here that are close to the road bear the scars as the stone is eaten away by the salt splashback as vehicles drive past.
For one short day yesterday, sunshine returned to the Calder Valley. Sadly, for most of it I was stuck indoors working in the office, but I did manage to escape for an all to brief period just before sunset and managed to capture this image looking across the valley from where we live to Norland, high up on the other side.
For the photographers amongst you, this was taken on manual and under exposed to bring out the depth of colour in the skies. I used my Nikon D5 with an 80-400mm lens on 200mm. ISO1250, 1/200th at F8.
When we woke up this morning not only had the temperature dropped well below freezing, leaving the valley covered in frost but the clouds had returned to half-hide the valley bottom and bring back the gloomy half-light we’ve lived under for the past few weeks. But we’re not letting it get to us as we’re having an evening out with friends, so expect a few pictures later. Right now we’re off to do some chores before getting in a Saturday stroll along the canal into Sowerby Bridge to meet up with the gang…
Sorry, this rolling blog never got updated because I was too busy having a fantastic time with friends. 16 of us went to the Engine in Sowerby Bridge tonight and had an excellent meal, then a few drinks afterwards. I’ll add more tomorrow, right now it’s time to relax at home…
As promised, here’s a few pictures from last night.
Yesterday the Green party and StopHs2 held a joint demonstration outside the Department of Transport in London. To say it was a bit of a flop is an understatement. The event was widely advertised on social media by anti Hs2 groups and the Green party – for all the good it did. Here’s an example.
Notice that 27 people claim to have attended? This is a piss-poor number when you consider the number of people who supposedly oppose HS2. As is my habit, let’s crunch some numbers to get a bit of perspective.
Over 6.5 million people live in the 63 Parliamentary constituencies HS2 will pass through.
The Green Party are estimated to have a membership of 48,500.
StopHs2 have 11,849 Facebook followers. Many of whom will have seen this leaflet.
Now, allowing for the fact there’s clearly crossover between these different groups, you’d expect a reasonable turn-out, wouldn’t you? Especially as the demonstration was taking place in Central London, thus within easy reach of many of those supposedly up in arms about HS2, No?
No. Here’s a few pictures from the event, which was timed to take place between 3-4pm. The first one is the sort of tightly-cropped pictures that you’ll see the media use, making it look like there’s actually something going on.
Here’s what the media won’t show you. This is a view of the full event, which shows you just how pathetically small is was! I count a total of 15 people, including 3 members of the media. Even the police didn’t bother showing up! The only security is a couple of DfT staff stood discretely in the background.
Here’s another shot, after the media had left but including one innocent passer-by on her phone. This is the best both the ‘combined might’ of the Green party and StopHs2 can do – in Central London! Quite where the others out of the 27 who claimed to have gone were is a mystery. But then it’s like the social media ‘keyboard warriors’ who spend all their time ranting about Hs2 on Twitter or Facebook – but never get out of their armchairs when it comes to doing anything else.
Here’s a short video, just in case stills aren’t convincing enough!
I’ve not seen any media coverage of this as I’m assuming it wasn’t considered newsworthy, which is hardly surprising. Bartley gave a speech to camera in which he trotted out the usual scaremongering nonsense about ‘ecocide’ and ‘concreting over’ the countryside. mark Keir also spoke to the camera. What he said was more interesting because of what he let slip. He appealed for more people to turn up to the Uxbridge protests because they’re desperately short of bodies on the ground. If you follow his and the other protesters farcical antics on Facebook it’s easy to see why!
The whole protest reveals something about the UK green party, which is that they’ve very little credibility as anything more than a protest group – which is clearly what they’re happiest being. They have several credibility issues, one of which is the calibre of their candidates and Mark Kier is a good example of this. I’ve no doubt of his commitment, but there are serious questions about his fitness to be a candidate. OK, it’s fair to say that the whole Brexitshambles has exposed the fact Parliament has more than it’s fair share of people with the intellect of an amoeba on both sides of the floor, but the Greens are meant to be offering something better. Here’s an earlier blog of Kier giving an interview. Does this sound like someone you’d like representing you in Parliament? remember, he stood in Uxbridge in 2017 and managed to reduce the size of the Green vote!
I’ve no idea how the Green Party chooses its candidates, but I have to say they really need to up their game if they expect to be taken seriously. That said, their ridiculous ‘co-leader’ policy doesn’t help either. It may play well to the membership, but out in the real world? Oh, please…
The tragedy of all this is the UK desperately needs a credible Green party, but this lot ain’t it. When I see the impact their German counterparts have on politics I do go green – but only with envy! The German party manages to grapple with national and international issues whilst the UK party is obsessed with localism and can’t actually see the woods for the trees, hence their mad opposition to HS2, because the hard truth is without HS2 we simply don’t have the rail capacity for the future to get people and freight off roads and cut transport Co2 emissions to tackle Climate Change. Stopping HS2 isn’t ‘green’, it’s exactly the opposite.