10:20Today a group of friends from the Big 6 pub in Halifax, under the leadership of Tony Allan (of Phoenix Brewery fame) are having a little outing by train, over the Pennines to Rochdale to partake in the Easter ale trail, a new take on the traditional beer festival. It’s another fantastic Spring day here in the Pennines, so the weather’s ideal. Watch out for updates on our (probably unsteady) progress throughout the day!Before we go, Dawn’s been busy in the kitchen as we’re hosting her parents for dinner tomorrow. Last night she prepared a special marinade for this leg of lamb, which will now steep until tomorrow.12:09The group rendezvous at Halifax railway station.12:57.The group outside the first pub of the day – The Flying Horse hotel which has a great view of the Town Hall.Here’s the token system.15:10We’re on our third pub and it’s a cracker! It’s The Baum in Toad Lane, a conservation area. The pub is adjacent to the shop where, in 1844, the Rochdale Pioneers opened their first shop and started the co-operative movement back in 1844.This has been our lunch stop and I couldn’t resist ordering a traditional Lancashire delicacy: rag pudding with mushy peas and chips!We’ve now stepped through a door into a 5th dimension where it feels like we’re in London, or Paris, not Rochdale – and Otto’s found the piano..18:10.We’re now on what’s probably our last pub, which is opposite the Town Hall. The Old Post Office.
I had planned to be working from home today, then two things happened. The sun shone and (after many trials and tribulations) electric trains did finally start running to Bolton in normal service – so how could I resist?
I’ll do a separate blog on the story of Bolton electrification as I have many archive shots of the work underway. This rolling blog will simply describe today’s foray. Right now I’m on the slightly late-running 11:22 from Sowerby Bridge to Manchester Victoria which is being worked by a Class 153/156 combo. As it’s post Peak it’s actually quite a quiet train, for now anyway…
Today’s going to be a busy one. Right now there’s a major conference underway which is discussing the future of transport in the North, including Northern Powerhouse Rail and Hs2. There’s no doubt that the vast majority of Northern politicians. businesses and business groups are determined to push for expansion and investment in transport for the North, but at the same time a small bunch of Londoncentric Tory right-wingers are launching their latest attempt to influence Government policy by attempting another hatchet job on Hs2, a project they hate as it doesn’t fit in with their political world view. Tonight Channel 4 will screen a Dispatches programme fronted by one of the band of right-wingers. It has the entirely neutral title of “Hs2, the great train robbery?” I’ll be blogging about it in detail after it’s been aired and I’ve had a chance to see it, so watch this space…
A quick hop across platforms at Victoria has enabled me to catch the 12:08 to Blackburn which worked by ex-GWR units. I’m in another 153, which allows a direct comparison of interior. The first shot is Northern’s 153363, the second is ex-GWR 153380.
Whilst in Bolton I had time for a wander and noticed this statue to one of Bolton’s more famous residents.
With the sun sinking I’m making my way back from Horwich Parkway, which was my last port of call. Today’s been another cat and mouse contest with the sun but I’ve managed to get a few reasonable shots. Here’s 319361 working a Buckshaw Parkway – Manchester Victoria service at Bolton.
A number of different diesel diagrams went over to electric on this first day. 319s worked a Manchester Victoria – Buckshaw Parkway service and also Manchester Airport – Blackpool North and Airport-Preston. A pair of 156s shared the Buckshaw Parkway services, so the introduction of electric services is obviously phased. No doubt more will go over to 319s soon. Here’s another shot from Bolton.
If you want to see a few more shots I’ve added them to this gallery on my Zenfolio website.
I’m currently bouncing my way back to Yorkshire by Pacer (The 16:37 Victoria-Leeds. Today’s electric launch must be the beginning of the end for these units now. They were already living on borrowed time – half the fleet should have gone by May 2019 yet all remain in service at the moment. Soon, sights like this will be a thing of the past.
To add to the fun of the journey, this car has a wheelflat, so there’s ‘thud, thud, thud’ to complement the usual Pacer noises!
I’ve a favour to ask…
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I’ve been spending the day working from the ACoRP office here in Huddersfield which isn’t a bad place to work. It’s not often that you get to base yourself in a grade 1 listed railway station!
Unfortunately a chunk of the morning was taken up with replacing my mobile phone. I dropped my old one last night and it performed a perfect belly-flop onto to a stone floor. The noise it made when the phone did an all points impact gave the game away immediately. Sure enough, when I picked it up I found the screen was shattered, which left the phone unusable.
My wallets now £40 lighter as I’ve invested in a new Samsung A8 to replace the knackered S6. To their credit the staff at the Carphone Warehouse didn’t try to sell me something with all the latest bells and whistles and understood what I was after. They were extremely helpful and also informative. Hopefully this phone will last longer than its predecessor!
The superb summer weather we’ve been having has come to a stormy end here in West Yorkshire. I’ve been playing cat and mouse with rain showers which have been heralded by some extraordinarily moody skies and gusts of wind which have made umbrellas all but useless.
Having sorted out what I needed to do in the office I nipped out on a TPE service to Greenfield. I’m still trying to get used to that as it was always Northern Rail who operated the stopping service between Huddersfield and Manchester. Still it was worth getting a soaking to get the following pictures. My intention was to update pictures of the Uppermill viaduct now that TPE have re-liveried all their trains and before the line’s electrified. The interesting weather clinched it. Here’s the view as I walked up the road to get some shots – just after a torrential shower had passed…
Here’s the view of the viaduct itself, looking towards Diggle and the Standedge tunnel.
The view’s getting hemmed in by trees now, in a few years time it’ll disappear. Here’s a closer look at the viaduct, with the former Saddleworth station (closed in October 1968)beyond.
It’s a stunning area to stand and admire the views all around. This shot was taken looking back over Uppermill and Greenfield at Wimberry Crag.
I’ve always loved the trans-Pennine lines via the Colne and Calder valleys and I consider myself lucky to have them on my doorstep. Here’s another view across Uppermill. The town itself is a popular tourist destination as it has plenty of pubs and cafes as well as holding a number of events throughout the year (link). As you can see from the picture below – it’s also great walking country!
The nearest station to Uppermill is Greenfield which has an hourly train service from Manchester and Huddersfield. Greenfield is on the rail ale trail and the Railway Inn is right across the road from the station. Here’s a pair of Paver at Greenfield working the 16:24 service from Manchester Victoria through to Huddersfield.
Tomorrow I get to explore another part of Yorkshire as we’re meeting up with friends to head over to Ilkley and the moor. Hats optional.
This evening I’m having a quiet night in with a glass of wine and the central heating thawing my bones after another cycling training run in temperatures that were more suitable for a ride across Norway than India!
As you’ll see from my yesterday’s blog, there was no way I couldn’t go out today as the weather was stunning. The only challenge was deciding to cycle a longer distance and also taking the Rochdale Road from Sowerby Bridge to take me up past the Blackstone Edge reservoir and down into Lancashire to the town of Littleborough.
It seemed like a good idea at the time. I dressed accordingly, wearing three pairs of socks to ward off frostbite whilst layering up across the rest of my body just in case. It was a wise move. This handy little chart from Google maps explains why.
Yep, you climb a thousand feet, in February, when there’s snow on the ground and the outside temperature’s registering minus 2 before you even start!
To be honest, I really enjoyed it. My stamina is improving so the climb wasn’t as arduous as the first time I did it. For the first time I even passed another cyclist on the way! OK, admittedly he was somewhat chunkier than me – and he was riding a mountain bike whilst I’m on a hybrid with slimmer tyres – but I probably had a good 15 years in age on him, so I’m allowing myself to feel smug! What was a problem was the temperature. I needed to wear a scarf over my mouth just to prevent myself from gulping down mouthfuls of freezing cold air which kill when they get to your lungs.
I couldn’t resist a selfie on the dam at Baitings reservoir en-route. Last time I was here the wind was so bad I nearly got blown off the thing. Today was a different story and the landscape looked gorgeous under clear blue skies and with a dusting of snow.
The journey from here to Blackstone Edge reservoir is the killer as the incline gets steeper to gain another 427 feet in 2 miles. Of course the local cyclists breeze it – but I’m a newbie at this! On the way up I stopped to catch my breath & enjoy the beauty of the landscape behind me.
At the summit by Blackstone the dusting of snow became far thicker, the wind-chill kicked in and the drop in temperature was obvious – the reservoir was actually frozen over!
It’s a bleak but beautiful spot, you really do feel on top of the world and it’s worth the effort to get here. This time, instead of skirting the far side of the reservoir you see behind me and dropping down into Cragg Vale I headed on to cross the border into Lancashire. The views looking West are superb on such a clear day as you can see all the way across Manchester to the coast.
Although not as exhilarating as the long drop through Cragg Vale to Mytholmroyd, the 904 ft descent to Littleborough is worthwhile for the views. Because of the weather conditions and the danger of ice on the road I took it easy as the last thing I need at this stage is a tumble! Other cyclists were less cautious, a couple went whizzing past me, making the most of the empty road. By the time I arrived in Littleborough I was ready to thaw out for a while and sought shelter. It’s not the most exciting town and the options are limited so I took refuge in the Falcon Inn on the Main St. It’s a barn-like place but it had the advantage of a roaring fire in one of the rooms, which I made a bee-line for. Like all the other pubs in the town, it didn’t do food – it’s a traditional boozer so I treated myself to a pint. The clientele were overwhelmingly retired and the handful of them in were either watching the racing or the world war 2 documentaries playing on two of the pubs several TVs. It was a friendly enough place but it did feel like being caught in a time-warp. It reminded me of Lancashire pubs I knew back in the 1970s, albeit the prices had changed a bit!
Once I could feel my toes again I moved on. The Rochdale canal runs through the town so I cycled the towpath as for a mile or so until I arrived at Summit where I regained the Todmorden Rd. Summit is famous for the 1 mile 1125yd long railway tunnel that begins here and runs under the Pennines to Walsden in West Yorkshire. The tunnel made the news headlines back in 1984 when a train of 13 tanker wagons containing over 1,000,000 litres of petrol derailed and caught fire inside the tunnel. The conflagration burned for days, turning the vent shafts into fiery torches that could be seen for miles. You can see some of the amazing pictures in this article from the Manchester Evening News
The tunnel may be straighter and flatter than the Todmorden road, but it was an easy cycle into Walsden where I decided it was time for some hot food. It was the ideal excuse to call into a local institution and somewhere I’d always meant to visit – Grandma Pollards fish and chip shop. For me this was a rare treat, I visit a chippie about once every Preston Guild! Despite the tempting range of pies on offer – including a local delicacy, the Bilberry pie, I limited myself to a bag of chips, munching them sat on a convenient bench the chippy’s provided in the car park opposite.
I must admit the chips hit the spot! Suitably fortified I continued along the road to the busy little market town of Todmorden. I’m never quite sure what to make of the place. It’s attractive enough, with some lovely old buildings (including the monolithic Town Hall) and an outdoor market in the shadow of the huge railway viaduct which crosses the town, but it also has a bit of a reputation across West Yorkshire as a place that has a few social problems. The far-right have always had a presence around here and it was a big Brexit supporting area. The two are often synonymous. As the saying goes, not everyone who voted for Brexit was racist, but you know that every racist voted Brexit…
I didn’t stop but continued onwards to Hebden Bridge which has a completely different reputation and feel. The former mill town has become the artistic and cultural centre of the Calder Valley due to an influx of ‘hippies’, artists and alternative types back in the 1970s-80s. Attracted by the low property prices they’ve transformed the economy of the town and made it a popular tourist destination. The bohemian feel is reflected in the craft shops, organic cafes and other local businesses.
The roads through the town are often congested so I cut off onto the canal again here, passing dozens of narrowboats, many in permanent moorings with little gardens and fancy sheds that help add to the atmosphere of the town.
Initially, the towpath was in good condition but it soon turns into a curate’s egg – it’s good in parts! The rest was a frozen quagmire with rutted tracks or deep puddles covered with a layer of ice. Before long the bike and I were both covered in mud. There seemed little point in getting back on the road at this point so I continued all the way along the towpath for the last 5 miles through Mytholmroyd and Luddenden Foot to Sowerby Bridge. At least it was good practice for the state of some Indian roads! What wasn’t good practice was the temperatures I faced and that’s my only concern. In a few weeks time I’ll be exchanging cycling in sub-zero temperatures for 30 degree heat! That’s going to be some contrast and quite a challenge!
So, please, if you’d like to help me face that challenge – help me to help the Railway Children by donating via my fundraising page here. Many, many thanks!