Considering that I’ve had jobs and events cancelled left, right and centre – I should be a man of leisure, but life never works out the way you think it might. Instead, I’ve found myself busy with trying to arrange work to fill the gaps, continue scanning old pictues and (safely) escape from quarantine to enjoy the fact Spring’s on it’s way and enjoy little victories.
Shopping around here is still a bizarre experience. Our local supermarkets have the look of places that have been visited by looters! Today I celebrated a small success by popping into one on the off-chance and being at the right time to pick up a dozen eggs. Sounds bizarre, doesn’t it? A couple of weeks ago, who would have thought that this would even have been an issue? I still can’t get my head around the whole bog roll shortage. Today I was amused to see that the shelves in a local Tesco’s had been stripped clean of cans and bottles of shit lagers, which is possibly an indicator of who’s doing the panic buying. There was still plenty of decent beers, wines and spirits to be had but the piss was in short supply…
Like many others, I’m still trying to come to terms with all this. To put things in perspective, by the end of today there had been a grand total of three confirmed cases of Coronavirus across the whole of Calderdale – out of a population of 210,000. We’re in the group of the lowest in the UK. Sure, there’s bound to be more undiagnosed cases here, but it’s not exactly the Black Death.
I’m not trying to make light of things here, just add some perspective – honest! Let’s face it, we need some humour at the moment and if the likes of Monty Python can’t supply it, who can? With the boot on the other foot I was morbidly fascinated to see how many older people still couldn’t resist the lure of Wetherspoons in Sowerby Bridge earlier, despite all the warnings about gatherings. We could be seeing an interesting experiment in self-inflicted social Darwinism playing out over the next few months.
Back from my mission to buy eggs I’ve been continuing to be productive by scannning more old slides from what now seems a much simpler age to my Zenfolio website. Here’s a couple of samples.
I’m currently on my way to London from Huddersfield after getting a lift in with Dawn as I fancied a change of route and the opportunity to see what preparatory work is being done on four-tracking the line East to Dewsbury. Right now, the work appears limited to tree and vegetation clearance and surveys.
I’m on a packed 3-car TPE service. The coronavirus seems to have had little impact on the number of people travelling around here at this time of day.
I didn’t hang around in Leeds as I was straight on to LNER’s 10:15 to Kings Cross which is made up of 2 5-car Class 802s. Curious to see how busy it was, I walked past the first unit to get into the front set. Loadings seem pretty good at 2/3 to 3/4 full, but there’s no seat reservations working so I can’t see if many people haven’t turned up. I’d certainly expect this train to be busier, but it’s not deserted in the way some sections of the media tend to make out.
On the was out of Leeds I observed the progress being made on building the new platform 0. The switch from the main line’s now in place and a lot of the new overhead masts have been installed with the old ones either decommissioned or removed entirely. The structure of the new platform’s yet to take shape as work is focussing on demolishing part of the original platform 1 to allow it to dovetail. If I’d hade time I’d have grabbed some pictures as it’s a bright sunny day but my focus has to be set a few hundred miles away today. Another day…
As an experiment I changed trains at Doncaster as there was another London service drawing in at the same time as mine from Leeds. I’m now speeding South on an LNER service from Glasgow Central and this IS noticeably quieter. I’m in coach J of a 9-car Azuma and there’s only 10 of us in here now after the 8 members of a girls hockey team from Edinburgh got off at Newark Northgate.
We’re currently bowling along the East Coast Main Line near Tallington Jn at 124 mph. The wall to wall sunshine I had in Yorkshire’s been replaced by low, fluffy clouds with occasional sunny spells which is a bit of a bummer as I was hoping my luck might have held.
We’ve just flown through Stevenage where the new bay platform for Hertford loop services is really taking shape. It’s no longer just a ‘civils’ site it’s now a railway one as track and overhead wires have appeared.
The weather’s improving the closer we get to the capital. Those fluffy little clouds are still hanging around but they’ve thinned and retreated higher to give me a fighting chance with sun patches, although Sods law will dictate they’ll still block the sun and leave the subject matter in shadow just as I prepare to take the shot!
I’ve had a hectic couple of hours getting the pictures I need for a magazine around Kings Cross station, which is changing yet again. The station’s gradually becoming hemmed in by skyscrapers as the West side of the station (the former loco sidings) is redeveloped. Oh, and the latest new trains have arrived in the shape of Hull Trains class 802/3’s. Here’s the first of the fleet 802301 keeping company with the type of train it’s replaced, Grand Centrals 180102.
Having done what I needed to I caught the London Underground’s Circle line over to Liverpool St. I was curious to see just what an effect the virus scare was having and I have to say, not a huge amount from what I can see. The train was quieter then usual, but not by much, and there wasn’t a mask to be seen! I did see one or two in passing, but to be honest, you’ll see more in the summer when the Asian tourist influx arrives as some people wear them as a matter or course when it has as much to do with London’s polluted air as anything! Here’s a shot taken on my train to Liverpool St.
19:45.Sorry folks! Rather a large gap in blogging there as I’ve been a busy bunny with the camera, aided and abetted by the fact there’s rather a lot to photograph in my old ‘Manor’ of East London! I decided to stay fairly local and didn’t venture beyond Hackney, which was perfect for my purposes as it allowed me to document the changing face of the railways in one of my old stomping grounds. London Overground have finally been able to introduce the much-delayed Bombardier built Class 710 trains on services to places like Chingford, so I was keen to get pictures of the transition between them and the old BR built classes like the 315s, which will soon disappear altogether. There’s so many new train fleets coming onstream at the moment that it’s difficult to keep up on the national perspective.I didn’t hang around too long as I needed to get back North ready for a change of kit for tomorrows job. To be honest, if I’d planned this without looking at the weather I’d have arranged to have stayed in London (or perhaps Birmingham) tonight rather than have another early start. On the bright side, I get another chilled night at home with my other half rather than yet another to myself in a hotel…
Right now I’m on the last leg home, a Northern train from Leeds to Halifax. Having left London early I missed the rush. Sadly, I also missed the weather, which deteriorated as we headed North. It felt positively spring-like in London earlier, leaving me feeling very over dressed. Not so now as I’m back in Yorkshire and glad of the layers! When I get home I’ll add a few pictures from today. At the moment I’m on an unrefurbished 3-car 158 on the Hull – Halifax service, so I’m accessing the web through tethering my phone to my laptop and loading pictures would make a tidy hole in my monthly data contract…
I’m home and drying out after getting soaked walking back from the station as the heavens opened and the wind blew! It was all a bit of a shock after being in balmy 14 degree temperatures in London earlier. Now I’m busy drying stuff out as I’ve got a sill o’ clock start in the morning in order to be in Birmingham by 09:30. Meanwhile, here’s a couple of pictures that I promised you earlier…
Back in the city I was keeping a watchful eye out for people wearing facemasks on public transport as the pictures would be useful library shots. Despite all the ho-ha there really weren’t that many, but I did see these two chaps on the underground at Liverpool St.
The snow returned overnight but thankfully only on the high ground above us, although we’re still seeing the occasional flurry. Here’s the view across the Calder Valley to Sowerby this morning.
I’m back in the saddle and preparing to head down to London for the next couple of days. From what I can see there’s no disruption on the railways that’ll affect me getting to the capital, so let’s see how things go…
I left home later than expected due to having to sort out a few things, including recovering my Netflix account as some barsteward had hacked the account and changed the email address! The joys of cyber-security (or not)…
Right now I’m on the slightly late running 11:44 from Halifax to Manchester Victoria which is worked by the first of the 2-car CAF class 195s, number 001.
There seem to be a few teething problems still, it’s not exactly baking hot in here, in fact I’ve had to put my coat back on. The wifi isn’t working and the reservation screens are showing the code ‘DILAX’ (whatever that means). On the plus side, this is a reasonably fast journey now that several stops have been cut. We only call at Hebden Bridge, Todmorden and Rochdale. Of course it could be faster if some of the generous ‘pathing allowances’ were removed, which mean we amble through Lancashire! We even have a five minute layover at Rochdale, which the conductor announces.
As is often the case, the Pennines form a border between weather fronts. It’s actually been a sunny morning for much of the time in Yorkshire, despite the odd snow flurry. My walk to the station was really pleasant. Here in Lancashire the clouds are far more built up and threatening more than a flurry!
I’ve now set up office on a nice warm Pendolino, which is such a contrast to the chilly CAF unit from earlier. This time of day/week the train’s reasonably quiet so I’ve got a table of four all to myself. My fellow passengers in coach U seems to be business travellers, mostly. A pair of them are holding a meeting on another table nearby. A quick look around the coach confirms my suspicions, 90% of folk in this coach are staring at a screen of one form or another, whether it’s a laptop, ipad or smartphone. Just two women (who look like leisure travellers) are actually sat chatting!
Outside my hermetically sealed and tilting bubble the world’s flashing by. Rural Cheshire doesn’t seem as badly flooded as many of the places I’ve visited recently although there’s still plenty of standing water on flat roofs, pavements and fields. Right, it’s time to knuckle down to work and clear some emails…
I’m now within the orbit of the M25 and my email inbox has been considerably slimmed-down, although it’ll be a while yet before it’s a single page! Disappointingly, the sunshine the forecast predicted has failed to materialise. In truth, it’s far duller ‘dahn Sarf’ than it was up North, which is a bit of a bummer. Still, I’m sure I can find something to occupy myself with for the next few hours…
I was woken this morning in a way I haven’t been for many years now. It was by the sound of aircraft on their approach to Heathrow airport. When I lived in North London this was always my alarm call as the first flights into Heathrow would circle across Crouch End on their approach to the airport.
Here in Clapham they’re a little lower, but the effect’s exactly the same. I stayed with an old friend last night and this is the view from his flat. Clapham junction station and the ever changing skyline of central London.
I’ll be getting some shots around here shortly before heading off to Surrey. Here’s one of them. Gatwick Express unit 387217 leads sister unit 216 on a service heading to Brighton via the airport.
I’ve begun my migration South as Dawn and I, plus her parents, are going to be staying in Surrey over Christmas in order to be near her brother and his young family. But first I have a few things to do in London, including catching up with old friends.
Right now I’m en-route to Manchester aboard the 09:06 from Sowerby Bridge to Wigan Wallgate. Once upon a time you could have expected this service to have been worked by a Pacer. Today it’s been allocated a refurbished 2-car Class 158, number 901 – one of the batch bought by the West Yorkshire PTE back in the 1990s. There’s an odd mix internally as it’s fitted with the new seats that are in the Class 195s but it retains the old (battered) tables and there’s no USB sockets or wifi.
As we traverse the Pennines I’m noticing that a lot more of the 2-car Class 195s are in passenger service now. Before the timetable change they were quite rare. It’s a positive change for passengers and I’m looking forward to seeing the full fleet in service next year.
We’ve now crossed over the border ino Lancashire where the weather’s just as dull, wet and miserable as it was in the Calder Valley – but at least it’s mild!
This train’s an ‘all shacks’ stopper which is full and standing now it’s left Rochdale. There’s a mix of Christmas shoppers heading into the city and others like me who’re heading South for the holiday.
My train was late into Victoria as we played the usual game of sitting outside waiting for a through platform to become free. Oh, for the days before British Rail flogged off half the station to build an arena and demolished so many platforms!
I’m now taking my first trip on Avanti West Coast. There’s not a huge amount of difference at this stage in the game. The Pendolino’s look almost exactly the same internally apart from a few notices. The staff are their usual friendly and efficient selves, they just make slightly different announcements. The wifi screen’s changed, but beyond that…
I’m currently speeding through Warwickshire at a rate of knots past a very damp and flooded landscape. Everywhere I look I can see fields under water, whilst rivulets of rain cascade down the window, holding their own little races as they go. Inside the train it’s warm and cosy, leaving me feeling sorry for the sodden sheep I’ve just seen by the lineside. Right now we’re flying through Rugby, a town and station I know well having spent a lot of time here in the past – including a Xmas and Boxing Day trackside many years ago, working on the infamous Rugby blockade which was part of the West Coast upgrade!
We’ve just paralleled the M1 motorway, which is easy to see because it resembles a linear raincloud due to all the spray that’s being thrown up by the vehicles on it. I’m glad I’m on a train instead!
The rain’s finally abated as we speed past flooded fields around Ledburn and the location of the great train robbery, an event sanitised in popular culture but never forgotten by those members of the railway family because of what happened to the train’s driver, Jack Mills, which was always glossed over in the myths around the event and subsequent films.
We’ve just passed Wembley yard, where the presence of a Grand Central class 180 has completely thrown me!
I’m about to make my way to the station in order to head to London to join today’s Rail staff Carol service.
Hopefully the railways are behaving themselves today. So far things seem to be OK at Halifax but let’s see what happens in the real world shall we?…
Compared to yesterday when temperatures were below freezing today’s remarkably mild and the walk to the station was rather pleasent apart from the drizzle. I’m in no particular rush this morning so i’m heading to London via Leeds. My first train of the day is the 07:57 from Halifax to Bradford Interchange which has come from Huddersfield. It’s worked by a single car Class 153. Despite that, the train has seats to spare, even after calling at Low Moor – which is a pleasant change!
I wasn’t in Bradford long as I caught the slightly late running 08:20 service which was following behind my ‘Dogbox’. This was formed of a 3-car Class 195 and also had seats to spare.
By pure chance I chose a seat at a table and found myself sat opposite a chap I knew called James who used to be a barman in one of our favourite pubs (The Moorcock Inn). This was the first time I’d seen him since the last time we bumped into each other by chance – on the Staten Island ferry in New York! Funny old world, isn’t it?
Despite the time of day and the hordes of people joining us at New Pudsey there were still seats free for some of the dozens who joined us at Bramley. At one time we’d have probably have left people behind here, so it looks like the capacity and service increase is working.
The fact that my Northern service was late into Leeds meant there was no chance of me making a tight connection so I had half an hour to explore and watch the world go by. A look at the huge information screens on platform 11 showed me that whilst there were cancellations and delays, things had improved significantly compared to earlier in the week.
Services were worked by a mix of old and new vehicles but Pacers were nowhere to be seen, which was a real sign of the times. What were very much more in evidence was Northern’s new Class 195s. With the changes going on I was a little surprised when my LNER service turned up as it was worked by 91129 hauling a rake of Mk4s. I’d been expecting a new Azuma. Still, it’s probably my last chance to ride behind this old workhorse.
I managed to get a table seat in the Quiet coach and set up my laptop to get some work done. We’re South of our Doncaster stop and the coach is busy but not overly so especially as we’re carrying extra passengers because the next train (the 0945 from Leeds) has been cancelled. We’re currently bowling along at 114mph underneath overcast skies, so I’m going to take a break and get some work done….
We’re on the approach to Kings Cross and the lineside’s a hive of activity as Betwork Rail and its contractors mobilise, ready for the big Xmas blockade that will kick-start the major expansion and renewal of the stations throat.
The carol service has commenced.
Normal service has been resumed! The Carol service was a lovely event which brought out people from across the rail industry (high and low) as the pictures I’ll add tomorrow will show. Afterwards, a few of us from across the spectrum adjourned to a nearby hostelry to chat about events in the railways and politics. I’ll name no names, but it was a fascinating discussion. 2020 is set to be a very interesting time. Whilst we were carolling, the Queen’s speech was being delivered in Parliament, which made it clear that the StopHs2 campaign’s dead in the water. Few in the industry were in any doubt before, but now Johnson’s government have made it clear.
Right now I’m en-route to Leeds aboard an LNER ‘Azuma’. It’s been a great trip as I’ve a table, power-point, wifi and coffee! OK, the view out of the window isn’t up to much this time on a December eve – but what the hell…
I’m relaxing at home before another foray to London tomorrow, so here’s a taster of the carol concert pictures.
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.
The weather here in West Yorkshire has continued the miserable run that we’ve had for several days now. Most of the day the other side of the Calder valley’s been half-hidden in the murk or had the valley tops disappear completely in low cloud. This gloomy weather does nothing to lift the spirits, nor does the persistent rain encourage one to venture out. Luckily, I’ve not had to. Jet (our cat) and I have stayed warm and dry at home, him in his basket and I in the office from 06:30 this morning, clearing up paperwork and scanning dozens of old rail slides from 2002. If there’s one silver lining about the weather, this is it – I’m making steady progress getting the old pictures (many of which have never been seen by anyone but me) onto my Zenfolio website after 17 years sitting around in albums. Here’s a small selection of the ones that have been added in the past 24 hours.
The weather forecast for tomorrow’s looking even worse than today, although I’m not sure If I’ll have time to scan anymore old slides as I’ve other things that need my attention. That said, you never know. I’ve just 50 left to scan from the present album, so maybe by tomorrow night…
In the meantime, if you want to have look at the full selection that I’ve added to my Zenfolio website, follow this link, which will take you to the ‘recent’ section and show you which galleries they’ve been added to as there’s quite a mixture.
Expect some modern pictures as I get out and about on my travels later in the week.
This wasn’t quite the Saturday that I had planned but sometimes life has a habit of not being what you hope for. I won’t go into details but I found myself stuck at home today in absolutely miserable weather. For most of the day the valley’s been hidden behind a bank of low cloud, rain or fog or combinations thereof. The sun stood no chance!
So, whilst Dawn was out with friends and family, I spent the day holed up in the office scanning old rail slides from 2002 and managed to get 80 done in a marathon effort. As I was a resident of London in those days the current batch of slides are very focussed on the capital as I was always nipping out and about.
You can find the rest of the pictures on my Zenfolio website by following this link. It’ll take you to the ‘recent’ section which will allow you to see which galleries the pictures have been added to.
It’s another of those ‘fun’ days on the railways. We were meant to be travelling from Halifax to London on Grand Central’s 10:36 service, but it was cancelled due to a shortage of drivers. Not the greatest of starts as the railways are under pressure this weekend because of the floods and engineering work which meant East Coast services were being diverted via the GN/GE joint line via Lincoln. Instead, the four of us (we’re travelling with our friends Fran and Aubrey) caught a Northern service to Manchester which was bound for Chester. It was one of the few that hadn’t been cancelled, so we knew that it would be busy. I’d hoped we’d have got a 3-car Class 195. Instead, Northern threw out an unrefurbished 2- car Class 158! It was already rammed by the time we left Halifax. We managed to find some space in a vestibule which became more and more crowded as we stopped en-route. It got especially ‘cosy’ when a chap with a bike got on at Todmorden! There were some grumbles, but when he explained that he really needed to catch that train as he was on his way to work (with disabled kids) in Manchester, folk made room for him. Quite why Northern could only spare a 2-car to work this service is a mystery. It certainly didn’t enhance their reputation with many of the passengers.
On arrival in a freezing cold Manchester we opted to get a tram across town to Piccadilly where Fran and Aubrey had booked seats on the 12:15 Virgin Pendolino to Euston, which is where I’m typing this now. Piccadilly was packed with travellers and late-running services. A check on Real Time Trains showed me that many Virgin services were running late. The inbound working for our service was 25 mins down. Quick work by Virgin staff turned the train around rapidly, meaning the Southbound working was only 5 minutes late departing.
We’re now enjoying a few drinks on the train, glad we’re not driving as the road conditions down South are pretty miserable!
Having negotiated our way from Euston via the tube and the Docklands Light Railway we’re now relaxing at our Docklands hotel before heading out to meet up with the rest of the gang before going for a meal at the superb Café Spice Namaste. Once thing we didn’t expect to find was this. It seems the AA are now interplanetary!