I’ve been too busy to blog today as we’ve been preparing for tonight’s Community Rail awards at the Guildhall in Southampton. We should have been here last year but Covid put the mockers on the event so we postponed it for a year. Tonight’s event will be hosted by Jools Townsend, Chief Executive of Community Rail Network plus Mark Hopwood, MD of GWR and Claire Mann, MD of Southwestern Railway. As I’ll be busy throughout the event I’ll add pictures when I can to give you a flavour of the evenin – so stay tuned. We’re kicking off in 10 minutes (at 17:00) when the drinks reception begins – so stay tuned…
Well, I hope our trip’s a cruise! We’re currently aboard Northern’s 09:44 from Halifax to Manchester Victoria on the first leg of out trip. Despite yesterday’s storm the railways seem little affected, which is great news. OK, out trains a couple of minutes late due to slippery rails and low adhesion, but when the weather’s as wet and windy as it has been that’s hardly a surprise. One of my first tasks this morning (well, after making coffee, obviously!) was to peruse various website to check on real-time train performance. Suitably reassured I’m relaxed about the trip.
Having stopped at Hebden Bridge where we picked up another member of the CRN staff we’re now on our way West though a dank and dismal Calder valley. At least Hannah and Dawn have added some colour!
Everything’s going to plan! Our journey across Manchester went without a hitch and we rendezvoused with the rest of the CRN advance party at Piccadilly. Now we’re settled in on a 4-Car Arriva Cross-Country Voyager for the long trip to Southampton, which wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea (4 hours 18 mins on a Voyager probably qualifies for an ‘Iron Man’ award!) but so far, the train’s relatively empty so we’ve room to spread out.
The weather’s improving as we head South too. The rain was hammering on the roof of Piccadilly but here in Stoke-on-Trent we’ve managed to encounter some sunshine and a smattering of blue-sky. Meanwhile, the CRN staff have turned the train into a mobile office, sorting out some last-minute changes to the awards.
Leaving Birmingham we called at International where a railhead treatment train was sitting between turns Seeing these vehicles working this late in the year seems unusual, but as some leaves are still clinging on to trees by their metaphorical fingernails it’s hardly surprising. It’s been a long autumn!
Right now we’re heading for Oxford in the best weather I’ve seen for days as we’ve blue skies spattered with high cloud rather then the wall to wall dullness that’s been the norm. Our train’s filled up but seats are still available and the atmosphere’s stress-free.
And it was all going so well…!
After an amble along the Thames Valley to Reading as we were already 5 minutes late we ended up kicking our heels for quite some time as one of the train crew who was meant to be joining us was stuck elsewhere. Five minutes became ten, then twenty, then twenty five, then – finally, whoever we were waiting for turned up and we got away twenty six minutes late. But we’d lost our path, so we were nearly 30 down by the time we passed Southcote Junction. We’re now at the mercy of signallers regulating the service and slotting us in as they can…
Made it! As I predicted, we lost more time en-route, finally arriving in Bournemouth 39 minutes late. Judging by the amount of young women hardly dressed for the season who were joining the train as we departed there’s a concert in Bournemouth tonight!
We’re currently relaxing at the hotel sorting our kit out whilst watching the latest political omnishambles unfold via the TV. The PM’s Press Spokesperson, Allegra Stratton has announced her resignation but I don’t that’s going to stop the awkward questions. Such as – which press members of the Lobby attended, because it’s painful to watch some sections of the media completely ignoring the story. The suspicion is that there was a lot of colluding going on here and a lot of people have questions to answer – including the Metropolitan police. Now we’re being told there’s going to be a Prime Ministerial announcement at 18:00 which is sounding like another attempt to say ‘look over there’. Meanwhile, we’ll be watching the announcement with a drink in hand, hoping Johnson’s not going to try and pull a stunt that could affect tomorrow’s awards…
It’s a reasonably early start for me as I’m off to Manchester to join colleagues from Community Rail network to kick off Community Rail week, a new event with an exciting range of activities taking place across community rail, this year championing the message Go Green by Train, as part of the build-up to COP26. The essential message is quite simple. Ditch the car and go by train. Here’s why;
Our opening event is at Manchester Piccadilly station from 10:00 – 15:00.
Community Rail Lancashire, Mid Cheshire CRP, Calder Valley CRP and Liverpool to Manchester CRP will be promoting the Go Green by Train message, highlighting how visitors can explore a wealth of attractions and activities by train.
I’ll be blogging and posting pictures through the day…
I’m en-route to Manchester although my train’s running late. I was in plenty of time at Halifax so caught an earlier Blackpool bound train as far as Hebden Bridge in order to get a few library shots and admire the old pictures of the railway displayed in the waiting room.
The Manchester service was running behind us but was several minutes late. Made up of a pair of Class 195/0s the service lost even more time outside Todmorden as (I’m assuming) it was stuck behind another service). Having crossed over the border into Lancashire we’re now running 16 minutes late.
I finally arrived at Piccadilly ‘on time’ but 22 minutes later than I’d planned. The lateness of our train turned out to be because of signalling issues around Todmorden. ho hum! Still, I managed to get the pictures we needed, including this one for the official launch of Community Rail Week.
Meanwhile, on the concourse, various community rail groups (and Network Rail) had set up a stall filled with leaflets and various goodies to give away…
Whist some of the CRN team stayed at Manchester some of us had another appointment back in West Yorkshire. The friends of Mytholmroyd station were unveiling artwork painted in conjunction with a local school, so I headed back across the Pennines with Jools Townsend and other CRN colleagues to cover the event. For once, the weather let us down! Rain had set in as we left Manchester and it followed us home. Even so, we had a station building in which to shelter from the rain and also some delicious food laid on for us to enjoy before the pupils of ‘Spider Class’ at Scout Road academy could join us. Here they are with the artwork they’d contributed to, which is on the theme of ‘Transport through the ages’.
I’m now back home in the warm and dry, preparing my kit for the next few days adventures which will be a marked contrast to today. Early tomorrow I head down to London and (hopefully) the South coast for an assignment which will no doubt generate a rolling blog. On Wednesday I’ll be looking at the opposite end of the railway spectrum and checking out work on constructing Hight Speed 2 at Euston. There’s a massive amount of work going on on hundreds of sites along the HS2 route at the moment, and of course Euston is one of the main terminal stations, with the challenge of building complex tunnel approaches without disturbing the existing railway. It should be a very interesting visit…
I’ve a favour to ask…
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Earlier today the Lord Lieutenant of West Yorkshire, Ed Anderson presented the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service to the members of the Mytholmroyd Station Partnership at a ceremony in the restored station building which the group has put so much time and effort into bringing back into use.
The award was presented to Sue and Geoff Mitchell who received it on behalf of all the members of the groups, many of whom were able to attend – along with representatives of the rail industry and local councillors. As friends of the friends, Dawn and I went along to celebrate their outstanding achievement. Needless to say, I took my camera along, so here’s a few pictures from the day
I’ve a favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this blog, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course (although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab!), but the revenue from them helps to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site – and right now (because of Covid), us freelances need all the help that we can get. Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website – https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/
In my case, today was the discovery of the fact there’s a Bilberry bumblebee!
I’d been on a Zoom call with the friends of Buxton station as part of my role as a Judge for the Community Rail Awards. Buxton has an excellent friends group who’re a great example of the work station friends do in their community beyond their local railway station. Whilst we were talking about their recent achievements Dave Carlisle mentioned that they’d built a huge flower bed outside the station using old railway sleepers donated by Network Rail (and there’s a long story about getting them from Crewe to Buxton during lockdown, but I won’t tell that here), what surprised me was that Dave mentioned 1/3 of the flowerbed was being dedicated to helping a local endangered species – the Bilberry Bumblebee!
Now, I knew there was many species of bee in the UK through working with my former CRA judge, Paul Cook of the Royal Horticultural Society. One of the delights of visiting different stations during the judging was seeing station flower beds literally buzzing with bees, but Bilberry bees? Here’s what Buxton have been up to (in their own words)…
“Buzzing Stations” project – along with Friends of Glossop Station, FoBS initiated this idea that has crossed the whole Peak District to included stations at Buxton, Edale, Glossop, Hadfield, Hope, Bamford, Grindleford & Hathersage.
The High Peak is home to the Bilberry bumblebee, under threat of extinction. Our work aims to help it thrive and survive. We built a huge (2m x 5m) planter unit from recycled railway sleepers (negotiated donation from Network Rail’s Redundant Assets team at Crewe and encouraged long-term partners, DB Cargo to collect them for us!), filled it with donated compost (from SITA/Suez) and plants, mostly donated (some from Morrisons, through their Community Champion, Rob Harrison). The plants were chosen to provide nectar to our bees prior to hibernation.
We are proud that the Bumblebee Express (the name of the planter unit devised as a media vehicle) was built under strict socially-distanced controls during lockdown.
We also intended to run Bumblebee Safaris from the station, but covid ruled this out, so we prepared a Self-guided version in leaflet form – launched on Heritage Open Day to complement their theme of Hidden Nature, 2,000 leaflets were printed. We were very proud when Jimmy Doherty commended our work as part of his recent TV campaign work, Jimmy’s Big Bee Rescue.
Legacy bumblebee artwork takes the form of an interpretation panel, bumblebees of the Peak District “spotters guide” (we negotiated permission to use the artwork directly with the Artist, Becca Thorne), “Make a Bee-line to Buxton” travel promotional poster (we purchased a special Licence to use the 1950’s image by Kenneth Steel) and commissioned a bespoke “special bees on a special landscape” mosaic from local community Artist, Jo Spencer.
Here’s Becca Thorne’s very attractive work.
It’s great to see the co-operation and information sharing that goes on between station friends groups and the innovative work this inspires. Living in the Pennines in West Yorkshire where bilberries are plentiful and bilberry pies are a local delicacy I was curious to find out if the bees existed here. Sure enough, they do, Here’s an illustration how the bees look from ‘Blooms for Bees’. The fun bit for me is how they remind me of railway workers high-vis!
You can find out more about this type of bee here from the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.
It’s fantastic to see the work community rail volunteers are doing in so many ways – despite the depravations of Covid and the difficulties that social-distancing and lockdowns have caused.
Perhaps, when all this is over, you might want to pop along and visit one of these stations and see the great work the groups are doing to grow the railways, help the environment and build their local communities. Your visit might even inspire you to get involved…
I’ve a favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this blog, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course (although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab!), but the revenue from them helps to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site – and right now (because of Covid), us freelances need all the help that we can get.
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.
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.
This isn’t going to be a long blog. The pair of us are starting to flag after getting to bed at 03:30 this morning before getting up again just a few hours later at 07:30, but it was well worth it. The ACoRP awards was a fabulous night that went without a hitch due to the great team that delivered the event. The full list of winners can be found here on the ACoRP website.
The days when Community Rail was seen as a sideshow and something eccentric or even irrelevant are long gone. Now the awards are seen as a ‘must attend’ event and have the support of the Department of Transport, Network Rail and the Train Operating Companies themselves, hence the regular attendance of the DfT’s Peter Wilkinson and Network Rail’s Chief executive Andrew Haines to name but two. But the evening belongs to the groups, most of whom are volunteers – who put in the thousands of hours that make such a difference to their stations, and their communities. As one of the awards Judges I feel very privileged to get to meet so many inspiring people who’re doing such fantastic work up and down the country. The community rail awards is our way of ensuring they get the recognition and appreciation they deserve for all the brilliant work that they do.
Here’s a few pictures to give a flavour of the event.
Right, it’s time for bed. Normal service will be resumed tomorrow when I’ve lots of pictures to add to my Zenfolio website. Watch this space…
I’ve been meaning to blog about this for ages but never had the time. Today’s miserable weather’s put a damper on other photographic activities as it’s chucking it down here in the Calder Valley so I’ve finally found the opportunity.
Some of you may have noticed the old station building at Mytholmroyd as you passed by on the train. It’s on West end of the Leeds bound platform. What you may not have appreciated from the train is just how big a building it is! Here’s how it looked from the platforms in April 2015.
Here’s a recent view showing what it looks like from ground level. In effect it’s two buildings. The back part of the building (to the left of the drainpipe) was the stationmasters residence. The public part of the building is to the right of the drainpipe.
It’s spread over three-floors and there’s a warren of rooms inside. Built in 1871 by the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, it was given a grade 2 listing back in 1984 when it was closed by British Rail. It’s been derelict for over 30 years but the friends of Mytholmroyd station have been trying to get it reopened as a community space and waiting rooms ever since 2007. It was a long process as the building is owned by Network Rail. In 2015 the station building was specifically included in the successful Arriva North Franchise Agreement, which stated that (no later than 2025) the franchise shall ” redevelop for social use redundant or under- utilised buildings at stations including Mytholmroyd and Cottingham”.
With that commitment agreed, negotiations continued with various interested parties, including the Railway Heritage Trust. The original group of station volunteers was joined by representatives from the local community and a Northern Rail director; and an application for Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) was granted in September 2017.
The negotiations culminated in work commencing in March 2018 by Network Rail contractors CPMS who removed asbestos and made the building safe in preparation to repoint and plaster parts of the interior. Local interior designers JSB Ltd assisted with the restoration of the original woodwork, fireplaces and windows.
Northern Rail is planning to include the building within their (operational) station lease from Network Rail. The Station Partnership and CIO would have a licence from Northern – with no responsibility for building maintenance etc.
Northern are planning a public Waiting Room and toilet on the second floor with access from the station platform. They would welcome suggestions for a small trading outlet within the building that would be relevant for rail passengers and be suitable for the general community/social use concept.
Northern envisage that the operation of the building will be through a Management Board consisting of themselves, the Station Partnership together with the CIO and users / tenant(s).
Proposals include –
Second Floor – step-free access from the station platform. Welfare accommodation for Northern Rail staff. A General Waiting Room – which may include an Art Gallery and station history display. Toilet. Rooms for Railway Education project.
First floor – steps only access. Studios for local artists and office/meeting room for Station Partnership, the CIO and the building Management Board.
Ground floor – step-free access. Flexible use which could include a small trading unit, a Reading Café incorporation of a library, meeting/conference facilities including a small catering area. Secure storage area for the Station Partnership equipment including an accessible water supply.
In March 2019 the first phase of the restoration of the building was complete. In May I was lucky enough to be invited along to have a look inside. Here’s what we saw.
I’m beginning the day here in Norwich on the last one for judging this years ACoRP awards. I’ll be visiting two East Anglian stations before beginning the trek back North, although I’ve one or two other things to see first as the East Anglian railway scene is changing fast, what with resignalling schemes and brand new fleets of trains sweeping away the old and familiar. The weather forecast is looking mixed, so let’s see how the day goes…The weather isn’t playing ball with the forecast, instead, it’s another beautiful day, so things are looking up. Which is just as well as I had neither wifi or hot water working in my hotel this morning. I had to boil a kettle to have a wash!Right now I’m getting a few pictures at the station before catching a train to Lowestoft in order to get to Cantley at a sensible time. We won’t be seeing scenes like this for much longer.
In the sidings at Crown Point depot are rows of new Stadler units, just waiting to enter service.
My train’s well on it’s way to Lowestoft now and it’s been fascinating to see the changes to the railway, which is still a mix of old semaphore signalling with patches of new, like Reedham, where the old signalbox still stands, albeit boarded up. The former sidings are used as a dump for detritus like old signal posts, rails and sleepers which have been rendered redundant.I’be been interested to see that significant chunks of the new signalling cable are kept in raised metal troughs which presumably keep it safe from flooding, a sensible precaution in this neck of the woods.
I’m in Lowestoft but only for 10 mins. Long enough to grab a couple of shots in the sun, then catch the same train back to my destination: Cantley.
My visit done, I moved on from Cantley, but not without getting pictures of the hand-operated level crossing gates and signalbox that will be swept away in February 2020. Since my 2018 visit the station’s been fitted with a ticket machine, CCTV and information screens. Throughout the work the local friends group have kept the gardens looking pretty.
I also managed to bag this beastie at Cantley!
Now I’m at Haddiscoe, where things haven’t quite gone to plan as the clouds are closing in. I’d intended to use the nearby A143 overbridge which crosses the railway and river as a vantage point to get some trains in the landscape shots but when clouds and their shadows are scudding across the landscape at a rate of knots and the trains are only hourly, the odds against train and sun coinciding are high. And so it was for me, two trains and two cloudy interludes! The luck of the draw…I’m not going to try my luck again, instead I’m moving back up the line towards Norwich.
I ended up in Brundall, the junction for the lines to Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft. It’s another link to the past as it also has semaphore signals, a working signalbox and also a hand-operated level crossing. By fluke I bumped into an old friend. Rob Pritchard of Today’s Railways UK magazine was there changing trains. We’d both pitched up for the same reason – we needed pictures of the new Stadler trains in service. Unfortunately, today wasn’t the day as the one I’d shot at Cantley earlier had been taken out of service, so we had to make do with 60yr old Class 37s instead! Here’s the pair of us ready to get some shots.
As the weather’s deteriorated and the 755s aren’t out I’ve begun my journey North using Abellio’s 14:40 to Ely for connections onwards to Peterborough, then off up the East Coast Main line.
We’re currently dodging showers on the way from Brandon to Ely, which says something about how much the weather’s changed. The skies are big in the flat lands of the Fens, so you can see the rain approaching from miles away.
I spent long enough at Ely to change trains, as the rain arrived at the same time I did there was no point in hanging around. Now I’m trying to outrace the weather. The problem is the clouds are coming up from the South, so the sun’s fighting a losing battle. I’m hoping I might get respite at our next stop, Peterborough although looking at the horizon now we’ve passed March I may be fleeing further! Peterborough looks like it’s getting a right soaking!
Homeward bound! I ended up with a brief stop at P’boro and again at Doncaster before heading up to Leeds. The stormy weather dogged me all the way apart from a brief respite in Leeds. Now I’m heading for Halifax and a night sorting out stuff. I have the day at home to wind up what the ACoRP judging, paperwork and packing – then Dawn and I are off to Ireland -so expect blogging of a different nature for a week! Right now I’m signing off until tomorrow.