It’s an unconscionably early time to be up nowadays as I’m out of practice as this – especially in the winter months, but I’m now up and preparing to head to Newcastle for a job. I’m actually rather looking forward to it as I’ll be visiting a rail system I really don’t get chance to very often – the Tyne and Wear Metro, which is about to undergo a vast change as the trainfleet is being replaced for the first time since the system opened in 1980.
Stay with me through the day to see how my travels unravel, and what I get to see…
My stroll to the station was rather enjoyable today. I love this time of day before the town wakes up. The weather was ideal too. Cold but not freezing, still but not damp. My breath was hardly noticeable and the pavements remained dry which is just as well. Yorkshire stone may look decorative but it can become an ice rink in winter! The station was starting to spring to life with a steady flow of foot passengers and taxis arriving to drop people off.
I’m now ensconced on Northern’s 06:17 from Halifax to Hull which is a 4-car Class 150/158 lash-up. Needless to say, I’ve plumped for the rear 158 so that I can grab a table and set up the mobile office. OK, there’s no power-points, but set 849 does have USB sockets so at least my phone’s getting a boost.
Despite the earliness of the hour and after leaving New Pudsey, this train’s filling up nicely as early morning commuters begin their journey into the city. Several more joined us at Bramley (the last stop before Leeds) so by the time we arrived in the city we’d quite respectable loadings.
I’m now heading North on another service entirely. LNER’s 07:08 from Leeds to Aberdeen. To be honest, before I’d booked this I didn’t even know LNER ran such a train. I normally associate Aberdeen services with my old home town – London.
The 07:08 runs light from Doncaster Carr depot to Leeds before starting in passenger service. Today it’s a 9-car Azuma (106 for the number-crunchers). There’s no shortage of space at this point of the journey although there’s plenty of reservations in the system for further North. I’ve found a vacant table bay and set up for the journey to Newcastle.
We’ve just left York after a less than stellar performance en-route. Working on diesel power as the line’s yet to see electrification completed we arrived in Yorkshire’s capital three minutes late, not that there were many passengers around to be upset. This train’s still quiet. We’re now ‘under the wires’ and working on electric so I’ll be interested to see if we make up any of that time. Either way, I’ve got a comfortable seat from which to watch the sunrise!
Having called at Darlington where dozens of people were awaiting our arrival we’re now heading North once more. The morning’s beautiful. The sunrise over a misty Vale of York was more than enough to tear me away from the laptop to take time and stare. Unsurprisingly, the performance of the Azuma’s (plus a less than tightly-timed diagram) meant my train soon made up the deficit it accrued from Leeds.
Pardon the gap but I’ve been busy working. Today’s job was to visit the Nexus depot at Gosforth to see a mock-up of the cab of the bew trains and enjoy a guided tour of the depot site. The depot was built by the LNER in 1920 but is about to be demolished as the site’s being rebuilt to cope with the new trains from Stadler, the first of which will be arriving this time next year.
As is often the way in this game, the weather’s been playing silly buggers! Whilst we were at the depot we had blue skies and low sunshine – exactly the conditions I didn’t want! As soon as I left the clouds rolled in and we lost at least four stops of light. I’d decided to explore the metro’s Airport branch to scout out some photographic locations. I managed a few shots but the dark clouds that had taken over made conditions challenging. In the end, having got a few new pictures I gave up and headed tack into toon – sorry, town! Conditions weren’t any better so I cut my losses and called it a day. I’m now making my way home whilst the weather closes in more. As I approached Durham there was a series of impressive rain showers sweeping across from the coast. I was half-expecting snow now the mercury’s dropped as much as it has but the further South I go the more rain I hit.
I’m currently aboard a TPE service from Newcastle to Liverpool which is almost pre-Covid busy but at least it’s warm and cosy. I didn’t realise how cold conditions had got until I took my laptop out of my camera bag once aboard and found it was like a block of ice!
I’ve swapped services once more as I wanted to take a short break in York to pick up a couple of books from WH Smiths on the station. As the station’s such a popular place with the railway enthusiast fraternity they stock the very useful ‘Trackmaps’, allowing me to update a couple that are well past their useful life as there’ve been so many changes in the past few years. Their ‘buy one, get the other half price’ offer was a welcome bonus! The station feels very festive right now as an enormous Xmas tree has appeared outside the stationers – and well away from the overheads! I didn’t hang around as I picked up a Northern service to Leeds to continue my journey. Worked by a 3-car 195 the 16:08’s a semi-fast service and busy, but that’s nothing unusual now that passenger numbers are really bouncing back. Earlier today Nexus informed us that their Tyne and Wear trains are already back to 80% of pre-Covid levels.
I’m back home in the warn and slowly processing today’s pictures. You’ll be able to read about my visit to Gosforth depot and the work that’s going on there in a future edition of RAIL magazine. Meanwhile, here’s a couple of T&W metro pictures to whet your appetite.
So (for now) it’s goodnight from me. Expect more pictures to appear on my Zenfolio website tomorrow. I’m off for a good sleep!
I’ve a favour to ask…
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