Hmm, what a strange day it’s been. I wanted to escape the office today as all the omens are that I’ll be spending a lot of (involuntary) time stuck at home over the winter months, so I’m making the most of what freedom I have whilst I have it.
Anyone reading the political runes over the past couple of days could see that there was a political dog-fight brewing over Covid, the Government’s tier system and the elected Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham. Today it came to a head. With this on the horizon I decided to take a trip into Manchester to document how this is affecting the railways, but also to stock up on some cooking ingredients that we can’t get locally. If I’m going to be stuck at home then cooking is one of my therapies, so having the raw materials that allow me to recreate South-East Asian dishes means a lot as there’s bugger-all chance of me getting out to that part of the world until 2021 at the earliest.
Manchester city centre and the railway stations that serve it were the quietest I’ve seen them for months. It seems that the message is already getting through to a lot of people who’re already staying away. I headed to Chinatown to buy the herbs and other ingredients I needed but the place was pretty much deserted – which felt very surreal for what’s normally a bustling area of the city.
Having got most of what I wanted I made my way back through Victoria station, which brings me on to a very topical picture of the day…
A solitary passenger checks his phone as he waits for the 15.33 to Newcastle at Manchester Victoria, 90 minutes before the Prime Minister was due to make a televised announcement over what Covid tier Manchester was going to be placed in after a very public spat with the elected Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham.
Personally, my feelings are that right now we’re becoming increasingly ruled by Downing St diktat as the democratic institutions of this country are ignored – be they Parliament or local politicians. Meanwhile the PM’s office has developed a standard tactic of blaming everyone else for Johnson’s failures – be that the EU, Parliament, local Mayors or other devolved institutions. This is only going to get worse as the clock (inexorably) ticks down to January 1st.
Welcome to Britain in 2020…
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I spent the early part of today scanning old slides, responding to emails and helping Dawn set up her home office by converting part of the living room into a workspace. That way I work upstairs and the pair of us don’t disturb each others concentration. We’re now set up for the future which is good as I’ve had the last outside job in the diary cancelled today. Thankfully, I have several writing jobs and I can’t thank my colleagues at RAIL enough for understanding the strain that the present situation places of Freelances like myself and standing by us.
With the weather being cold but sunny the pair of us ventured out for an hour in order to try and pick up some fresh produce and a some tinned goods for the weekend. Oh, and some of Tesco’s finest alcohol free Prosecco, which is one of the best of its type. Sadly, we were unsuccessful on most fronts as both the supermarket in Halifax and the one in Sowerby Bridge has already been pretty much stripped clean. There’s tentative signs that some things are easing as people’s deep-freezes and store cupboards must be packed by now. You could still buy some eggs – and bread but in the immortal words of Magician Paul Daniels “not a lot”. A novelty was that the checkouts now have yellow tape on the floor marking out the minimum distance people are being asked to keep from each other (2 metres) – and this applies to customers and cashiers too!
Back home my plans changed when I found that my bank had settled a PPI claim. It was certainly a case of serendipity as the money couldn’t have arrived at a better time. The irony? They sent me a cheque. My bank, whom have all my bank details – sent me a cheque through the post! FFS!…
As their mobile app allowing you to scan and pay them online isn’t yet up and running I had to walk into central Halifax and pay it into a bank branch. It’s so long since I last visited that I was surprised to see they’d closed all their counters and replaced them with machines and a few roving staff. Gone are they days when you stood in a line to see a bank teller behind a bullet-proof screen. I can’t help wondering how long the NatWest will hold on to such an enormous building that was built for a very different banking age, when such institutions used architectural pomp to present power and stability. It must cost a pretty penny to operate yet the footfall will be tiny compared to just a decade ago, never mind its heyday.
As I was in town I decided I might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb so I caught the train into Manchester. I was fully equipped with hand-sanitiser and on my Jack Jones so there was no problems with social isolation! My plans changed when I realised just how many services Northern were cancelling due to staff shortages. I’d an inkling this was happening as both my Facebook and Twitter feeds were busy with rail industry friends saying they were starting to self-isolate due to having diabetes. I’d never picked up that this was such an issue before, nor the fact that the problem is so common. Instead of Manchester, I found myself checking out a deserted Leeds station and an unheard of situation, especially on a Friday – the Wetherspoons was deserted!
As a plan B I caught a pretty empty Trans-Pennine Express service across to Manchester in order to be able to relate a tale of two cities. It was very instructive as it’s clear more and more people are starting to self isolate as the magnitude of the problem finally sinks in. The train was quiet with around a 8-10 people in the carriage after we left Huddersfield. In Manchester there were still people around but nothing like the numbers I saw earlier in the week. The demographic seemed to have changed too. It was much younger, with far less older people about. Most station retail outlets were deserted and many on the mezzanine floor of Piccadilly had already closed down for the duration, with areas taped off to the public. Others had become refuges for railstaff taking breaks who wanted to self-isolate. That message is really getting through. Here’s how Manchester’s two main stations looked in the Friday ‘rush’…
I headed back across the Pennines on the 17:20 from Manchester Victoria which would normally be packed but it was eerily quiet with around a dozen people in my car. On arrival at Halifax I walked back and decided that – as I was passing – I’d pop into my local supermarket on the way home. The news that the Government was telling all cafes, pubs and clubs to close from this evening had obviously already got through as the drinks isle was almost bare of wines and beers had disappeared completely! It looks like we’re in for turbulent few weeks…I’m now back at home and settling in for the duration. Dawn and I will still get out and about of course, we’re not going to become hermits but we are going to be practising social isolation. I’ll tell you what though, it’s going to be one heck of a day when the pubs re-open! Well, most of them anyway.
Allow me a certain amount of schadenfreude at the discomfort of Tim Martin, boss of Wetherspoons, who earlier today complained closing pubs was ‘over the top’ and the equivalent to ‘shutting down Parliament’. Suddenly, the man who was treated as an economic expert by the media over Brexit and who helped foist that shambles upon us is now being treated as an expert on contagious diseases. Of course, the irony is that by closing his establishments they Government has probably saved his business as many of his pubs have a reputation for being ‘care in the community’ day-centres, just with alcohol. Many of his punters are in the demographic that the Coronavirus would decimate!
The country may well look a little different by the time we come out of all this…
To say that it feels like we’re living on the set of a disaster movie is somewhat of an understatement at the moment. Yesterday, reality bit when our part-time Prime Minister, flanked by two of his senior advisors laid out the Governments latest plan to deal with the Coronavirus pandemic. Schools will remain open but people have been asked to ‘avoid’ non-essential journeys. Also pubs, clubs and restaurants, although they’ll remain open. People are being asked to self isolate or work from home. This change of policy has been brought about because of the modelling of the projected death toll from doing nothing, over half a million (mostly elderly or infirm) dead. No doubt this thought will upset some people, but I can’t help thinking that if the pandemic had happened in 2015 that would have been Brexit sorted!
Now the rest of us have got to muddle through the next few weeks/months, without any real clue how this is going to pan out, or how long it’s going to last. During that time we’ll no doubt be bombarded with all sorts of mixed messages and policy changes from Government, scare-stories and speculation in sections of the mainstream media and total tinfoil hat paranoia and fuckwittery on Facebook and Twitter. What a time to be alive!
Meanwhile, some of us have still got to try and earn a living. So, my thoughts go out to all the self-employed and those on contracts that make the future look decidedly uncertain. Part of the fuckwittery I’ve been talking about is the idea most people can work from home. Really? How does that pan out for tradespeople? Is a plumber going to fix your pipes over the internet? Or the driver of the bus or train that’s taking nurses and other health professionals to work? Or the people who staff the power stations and national grid that supply the electricity to power the gadgets that will keep you amused whilst you self isolate? Because it seems that we’ve had two outbreaks right now. One’s the Coronavirus, the other is rank stupidity.
Right now I’m out and about to get pictures for a magazine showing the effects of the pandemic on public transport, so I’m heading into Manchester to see how numbers are panning out there. I’m currently on a train from Sowerby Bridge to Manchester Victoria and whilst passenger numbers are down it’s busier than I expected at about 60-65% loaded after calling at Rochdale.
Once in Manchester I walked across an eerily quiet city centre from Victoria to Piccadilly past the usual groups of homeless people. I can’t help wondering how these poor souls are meant to self-isolate, unless you count living on the street as ‘isolation’? A Coronavirus outbreak here could spread those these vulnerable people like wildfire.
When I arrived at Piccadilly the lack of passengers was very noticeable, as was the lack of custom at the bars and eateries up on the mezzanine floor. They were deserted. What there was an increase in was the number of people wearing face masks. This has always been a familiar sight amongst the Asian (mostly Chinese) community over the years, so what was striking was to see how it’s spread to Europeans. I went to check out the trains to/from Manchester Airport. They’re well below their usual capacity and I think this will only get worse as what I was seeing was people returning home before the airlines cancel more flights. I reckon if I came back in a week they’d be almost deserted. The other thing I noticed was how more and more electronic billboards are displaying notices about the Coronavirus.
Well, that was a depressing few hours. Rather than hang around in Manchester I headed over to the Wigan – Southport line in the hope of getting pictures of Porterbrook’s bi-mode Class 769s which are on test on the route. As always, these things are hit and miss. They were shown in Real Time Trains as running, the timings had been entered into the Special Train Plan today, but it never turned up. I first stopped off in Burscough, but as the weather was on the turn I ventured out to my old home town (Southport) to get the shot. When it was obvious the train wasn’t going to turn up I had half an hour to kick my heels wandering the town centre, ‘admiring’ the closed down shops and pubs on empty streets whilst remembering what a vibrant place it was when I was growing up there in the 60s-70s. and trying to recollect what it looked like then. It wasn’t just the buildings I didn’t recognise, there were no familiar faces either, but then I left in 1986. It certainly didn’t feel like home.
Now I’m heading back into Manchester in time to see how busy the rush-hour may be and get a last few pictures before heading home to my own self-exile. From what I’ve seen today it’s clear that some people either didn’t get the memo about avoiding pubs or are just choosing to ignore the advice. I was amazed to see a group of elderly people who’re obviously in the most vulnerable group heading into a pub in Burscough. I wonder what it’ll take for the seriousness of the situation to register with some of them? When some of their number croak?
Manchester was quiet. Very quiet, Piccadilly especially so – as these pictures taken after 17:00 show.
The city centre wasn’t much better as it was pretty obvious that a lot of people who can avoid travelling are doing so. Even so, it’s surprising how many who’re clearly retired and don’t need to be travelling are still doing so. Right now it feels like we’re in the ‘phoney war’ period of the pandemic as some people aren’t taking it seriously because they’ve fallen for this ‘blitz spirit’ nonsense, pretending if they ignore it, it’ll all go away. I wonder how long it’ll be before they’re disabused of these notions?
I’m on the train back to Halifax now and there’s a bay of four people in front of me. It looks like parent and son or daughter in law who’ve been out on a jolly and who’re all clearly pissed. There’s a lot of bravado about the situation, but I notice granny has a bottle of anti-bacterial hand cream on the table in front of her!
I suspect that’s the end of my travels for the rest of the week. I’m back to self-isolating and working from home for the next few days, so expect today’s pictures to appear on my Zenfolio website tomorrow, along with yet more vintage shots from 1991 whilst I wait for the next chapter in these chaotic times to be written.
After yesterday’s abortive attempt to get to Manchester I’m having another crack at it this morning. I’m currently getting ready to head down to the station, hoping services are running more smoothly today, despite the gloominess and wetness of the weather. Let’s see what happens…
I’ve walked down into soggy Sowerby Bridge to catch the train. The weather’s less than inviting and the “sunny periods” mentioned on the forecast have failed to put in an appearence, but at least the rain’s stopped for now. As I crossed the Calder I noticed the river levels shrunk. It’s still looking angry, but not livid!
My first train of the day is the 09:06 to Wigan Wallgate. My least favourite type of train’s turned up on it. The Class 150. This one’s an ex-GWR set that’s been refurbished to make it reasonably presentable, although it still has 3+2 seating.
We’ve just crossed the Pennines into Lancashire where the weather’s just as grim as it is in Yorkshire! As we passed the site of the culvert I featured in yesterday’s blog I saw that it’s still blocked and flooding the track, with little sign the torrent has lessened any.
After calling at Littleborough our train’s rammed which is no bad thing as the extra bodies might generate some heat as it’s freezing on here!
Sorry for my absence for the past few hours. I’ve been too busy taking pictures to blog! The weather’s been pretty mixed here in Manchester but at least it stayed dry. Now the day’s moving on we’ve even seen some of the sunshine we were promised. Most of my attention has been focussed on trying to fulfil a brief I’ve been given by RAIL magazine. Sadly, it’s not as easy as it once was due to the ever-changing nature of the railways, but I’ve given it my best shot(s) as it were. Time will tell if the pictures do what they’re imagining.
Whilst I was at Piccadilly I noticed the new East Midland Railway franchise seems to be rather short of serviceable regional trains. Whilst I was there a ‘double Dogbox’ and Class 158 passed through on a Liverpool Lime St – Norwich working, then this turned up – ‘double dogbox’ and a Class 156! This is only for the hardy, 75mph max and no air conditioning…
This was the 07:46 from Nottingham to Liverpool Lime St which was terminated at Manchester as it had no chance of keeping to time. It left Sheffield 44 mins late and was 63 minutes late by the time it got to Piccadilly.
Having got the pictures off to RAIL I’m now having a break in the warm and catching up with blogging before heading out again. I’ve lots of pictures to add to my Zenfolio website later and a bit of travelling to do yet today. Let’s see what happens next…
Apologies for the way this blog got lost. It’s now late and I’ve been back at home for several hours, sorting out pictures from the day and also scanning yet another batch of old slides.
After sending pictures off to rail I hung around in Manchester for a couple of hours to capture another series of library shots along the Castlefield rail corridor. Here’s an example of just how congested it is.
My time in Manchester was interesting as it made me realise just how much the railways have changed in the past year because of the introduction of new trains. Both Northern and Trans-Pennine Express services have altered tremendously with new trains and new routes. The only Pacers I saw were operating services to New Mills in tandem with Class 150s, a situation that’s a far cry from how it was just a couple of years ago. Once all the new trains have entered service the railways around Manchester and Leeds are going to look very different. Not that the changes stop there. Next up is electrification and expansion of the railway from Huddersfield to York, which (hopefully) will make a big difference to the reliability of trans-pennine services.
Tomorrow I’m going to enjoy a day working from home as I’ve got a lot of pictures to edit, so expect to see some appear in a blog and the rest on my Zenfolio website. After today’s perambulations (my Fitbit tells me I’ve walked just over 14 miles today) I’m looking forward to a more relaxing day. For now, I’m going to bid you goodnight!
Recent reports have confirmed that both Class 142 and 144 Pacer trains will continue in service until the next timetable change in May at the least. The plans are that they’ll be confined to Lancashire and Yorkshire with the Class 142s operating West services around Manchester whilst the Neville Hill based Class 144s will operate set routes around Leeds/Sheffield/Doncaster/Huddersfield and York.
The Class 142 fleet will be reduced to just 22 members from an original fleet of 94 whilst all 23 Class 144s will be retained. the DfT derogation letter confirms that the following Class 142s will be allowed to run but will gradually be phased out by the arrival of new CAF built units.
The Class 142 derogation expires at 23:59 on 31 May 2020.
A separate DfT document that confirms the dispensation allowing the Class 144s to be kept in service also specifies which routes they will be allowed to run on. These are.
• Leeds to Huddersfield
• Leeds to Sheffield
• Leeds to Knottingley
• Sheffield to Adwick
• Sheffield to Huddersfield via Penistone
• Sheffield to Gainsborough Central / Lincoln
• Huddersfield to Bradford Interchange via Halifax
• Huddersfield to Castleford via Wakefield
• Doncaster to Scunthorpe
• Sheffield to York via Rotherham and Moorthorpe
• York to Leeds via Micklefield
• York to Selby / Hull / Bridlington
• Bradford Interchange to Leeds
• Doncaster to Leeds
The permission granted by this dispensation to Arriva Rail North expires at 23:59 on 31 August 2020 but don’t assume that they’ll last until then.
This means Pacer fans (and yes, they do exist!) have a few more months to search out and ride/photograph these gradually dwindling fleets of trains before the last one heads off to the scrapyard. Make the most of the reprieve as it all depends on how quickly the last of the new CAF built trains enter service! If I get details of specific routes that the Class 142s will be operating on around Manchester I’ll update this blog with details. Right now I’d expect that they’ll be seen around Victoria on services to Stalybridge and Rochdale plus at Piccadilly on trains to New Mills and Rose Hill.
If you want to see a pictorial history of the BR built Pacer fleets over the years, have a look at my earlier blog.
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 improve 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 problem my Geand Central service is running to Hebden Bridge where it’ll reverse and head back to Halifax via Milner Royd Jn.
It may be Sunday but it’s no day off for me. RAIL magazine have asked me to cover todays 175th anniversary events at Manchester Victoria station. Train services through the Calder Valley are disrupted by engineering work, so ‘bustitution’ from Hebden Bridge Westwards is the order of the day so So Dawn’s given me a lift to Huddersfield so I could catch the 10:52 direct to Victoria. Weatherwise it’s a glorious sunny day and the autumnal colours of the trees look stunning. Let’s see how the day goes…
The event at Victoria’s worth a visit. Outside the front of the station there’s two old Manchester buses and a vintage tram.
Insise there are stalls on the main concourse and upstairs on the mezzanine entrance to the arena. They include the East Lancs Railway and the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway society who have an excellent display of old pictures of Victoria station. Many more are included in this commemorative book which can be bought for £5 from their website.
To add to the fun, Queen Victoria herself has dropped in to admire her namesake!
Homeward bound! I caught a packed TPE service from Victoria to Huddersfield, where I had enough time between trains for a ‘swifty’ in the wonderful ‘Kings Head’, one of the two pubs the station’s blessed with.
Now I’m bouncing my way home to Halifax on the generously proportioned 13:52 Huddersfield to Leeds via Brighouse. It’s a 3-car 144 and 2-car 150 lash-up, which means I’m the only passenger in the lead car! No doubt the train will fill up later in the journey.
After getting back home Dawn and I had some quality time together, enjoying on of our favourite walks from home, down the hill and along the canal into Sowerby Bridge. The sunshine had deserted us, but it’s still a lovely walk this time of year as the leaves on the trees that line our route look stunning. We stopped off for a quiet drink and a chance to read the papers in Williams Bar before strolling back up the hill to home, feeling virtuous having spent Sunday active. Now we’re relaxing at home with a spot of culinary therapy. Dawn’s busy cooking a mixture of chorizo, cannellini beans and spinach which is used as a base for a fish dish whilst I’m waiting in the wings (and a chance at the cooker) with monkfish tails ready to go into a Thai green curry.
I’m out and about slightly later today as I was up and in the office at 06:30 this morning, sipping coffee whilst I edited yesterdays pictures and got them to the client before start of play so that they could make their selection today.
Whilst doing so I caught up on the days news. Apart from the usual Brexitshambles, HS2’s in the public eye as the Oakervee review is allegedly going to be published ln the 19th. What’s interesting is to see how much public support there is for the project. The North’s politicians and business leaders like the CBI and BCC are queuing up to say that any downgrading of the project would be very damaging. In contrast, the dwindling opposition to HS2 is very muted. The remaining campaign group, StopHs2, have neither the money or the recourses to do much. Their ‘Campaign Director’, Joe Rukin spends most of his time playing “Swampy” with the tiny bunch of protestors in woodland camps on the phase 1 route. The penny slowly serms to be dropping that Phase 1 isn’t going to be cancelled and the carrying over of the phase 2a Hybrid Bill onto this Parliaments agenda is sending signals that no-one expects that to be shelved either. The only questions are over phase 2b – hence all the lobbying from the North’s powerful lobby.
There are a few dissenting voices in the North. What’s mildly depressing is the way some here still play regional and party-political politics with a chip on their shoulder about London. They simply won’t accept that HS2 isn’t all about the capital. The positive thing is they’re very much in a minority and have no credible alternatives to offer, just obfuscation and yet more delays.
As a Lancastrian who lived in London for 25 years before moving to Yorkshire I find this envy and resentment of the South both frustrating and (ultimately) self-destructive. It’s daft, not least because many of us “Southerners” were former Northerners who made the most of the opportunities London and the South-East had to offer, rather than sticking with Northern parochialism and the feeling that the North’s “hard done by”.
A case in point was a discussion I had with someone complaining about the fact HS2 tracks wouldn’t reach Newcastle or Teeside. I asked him to make a positive case why they should. All I got back was resentments and political conspiracy theories. Now there’s no doubt the North has been ignored sometimes, but when all it does is moan and say “it’s not fair” it’s easy to dismiss. Concrete evidence of WHY investment in the North should be made and the benefits it’ll bring are harder to ignore, which is why it’s great to see the North’s political leaders embracing the opportunities “Northern Powerhouse” can bring rather than dismissing it as a political stunt. If only others did…
The frustrating thing is there are many inspirational people in the North and some fantastic things happening. If only we could ditch this Southern envy!
I scribbled the above whilst changing trains at Hebden Bridge. I’m now aboard a 2-car Class 150 heading to Victoria to see some of the Northern Rail investment all too often ignored by some Northern politicians because the ‘wrong’ political party wrote the cheques for it! I’ll also be popping back to Piccadilly for a couple of hours to (hooefully) add a few more assistence pictures to the collection. Watch this space…
Passing through Manchester Victoria I couldn’t help noticing how railway enthusiasts have returned to it’s platforms nowadays. A small group of them huddled at the East end of platform 5. For many years few bothered due to the steady diet of DMUs with an occaisional freight. Now, with a resurgence of freight and loco-hauled passenger services, plus new Nova 2 units snd Class 195s, it’s become a place to visit again!
As the weather changes, so do plans. The miserabke weather we’ve been having over the past few days has given way to sunshine and the opportunity to catch some outdoor shots, so Piccadilly’s been postponed. Instead I’ve been getting shots around Manchesters rapidly changing city skyline (pix will be added later). Right now i’m bouncing my way to Wigan aboard an ostensibly ‘stored’ Northern Pacer (142046 for the number crunchers) which has presumably been resurrected to make uo a stock shortage. No doubt the picture will soon change again. Next week the new Class 195s are due to take over Leeds-Chester services, which (in theory) allows more Pacers to bite the dust before the December deadline.
As we approached Bolton I noticed that the huge red brick “Beehive Mill” that’s adjacent to the line and been wmpty for years is in the process of being flattened. Cotton mills were an important part of Lancashire’s past, but they’ve no part in its future. Hopefully in 2019 the site can be put to better use.
I’m taking a short break in Wigan to get some sonshine shots before heading back across the Pennines. Here’s my chariot, which is looking well for a ‘stored’ train!
What a difference a few hours can nake to the weather! As I headed home through Manchester the sun was beating through cloudless skies and turning rail tracks into golden ribbons. I couldn’t resist stopping off at Victoria for an hour to capture some scenes and the opportunity presented by a flag-waving lookout stationed at just the right place on a platform end. I’ll ad some pictures later. Right now i’m on a busy Class 156 heading to Leeds via Brighouse as the 17:37 off Victoria.
I’m on my way to Manchester from Huddersfield as I’m going to be spending much of the day working at Manchester Piccadilly doing people pictures for a client – although I’m sure a few train shots my find their way onto my memory card whilst I’m at it!
Like almost every day this month the weather’s dull and wet with low cloud at a height of just a few hundred metres, hiding the tops of the Pennine hills and giving the Colne valley quite a claustrophobic feel. Apparently, this October is on track to be the wettest since records began, which is no surprise. I can’t remember another one where the rain’s been so persistant or the showers so heavy. The climate’s changing and all but the most dogmatic and blinkered climate change denier can see that.
Luckily, I’ll be working under a station roof, albeit a rather leaky one! Still, let’s be grateful for small mercies. I always enjoy working at Piccadilly as the staff are a great bunch of people who take a photographer in their midst in their stride. So, let’s see how the day goes…
Whilst I was passing through Manchester Victoria one of TPE’s new Hitachi built Nova sets arrived on a Liverpool Lime St – Newcastle service. Sadly, both sets in service today were unbranded, which is a shame as the new livery suits them far more than the existing fleet of Class 185s
Today’s office – and it’s been a busy one, photographing Network Rail staff offering all manner of assistance to passengers. From carrying their heavy suitcases, pushing wheelchairs or helping VIP’s (Visually Impaired People).
As usual, the staff have bern brilliant, but so have the passengers. No-one’s said no to having their picture taken and some have been really chatty. Every one of them has praised the staff at Piccadilly and the assist system in general. What I found interesting today was how the Network Rail staff I was working with were overwhelmingly young people compared to when I did the same series of shots (for ATOC as RDG was in those days) back in 2005.
I’ve knocked off for the day and begun to wend my way homewards, pausing here and there to get shots of some of the stream of new trains coming into service on a weekly basis. Here’s one of Northern’s new CAF built class 195s at Oxford Rd.
I had a ‘pit-stop’ at the Stalybridge station buffet on my way back to Huddersfield in order to have a ‘swifty’ and use their wifi to upload some pictures to my website. The buffet was its usual convivial self but what I hadn’t expected was to bump into one of the young men who works for Network Rail whom I’d been photographing earlier. He’d finished his shift and (like me) had stopped off on his way home. As we were both out of work we had an interesting chat. He was in stark contrast to my experience on the platform whilst waiting for my train, which was like being in a Victoria Wood sketch. The area was dominated by a young, overweight woman dressed in her best ‘Primani’ shouting into her phone at a female friend whom she had on speakerphone. Most of it was verbal diarrhoea, apart from the memorable line “I’ve just spent four and a half years in prison and he didn’t writ me once”…
I’ve escaped the delights of ‘Stalyvegas’ and returned home to put my feet up, so there’s no more blogging from tonight, just a couple more pictures from the day.
Today I’ve escaped the confines of the Calder Valley to head across the Pennines to Manchester. My plan is to pop in at a charity coffee morning being held at Manchester Piccadilly before working out my itinerary for the rest of the day which will very much depend on the weather. Yes, I know I talk about the weather all the time, but in my work as a photographer it’s a vital component that has enormous influence over what I do – as well as where and when!
I’m hoping to be able to get some library shots of the new trains that are entering service with Northern and Trans-Pennine Express, and possibly an old Pacer or two before they take their final trip to the scrapyard.
Things haven’t got off to a very auspicious start. We’re just pulling out of Stalybridge in the middle of a shower with the wind pushing in low clouds from the West, promising more rain to come. Let’s see how the day goes and where I end up…
The coffee morning at Piccadilly is a great success and a fantastic example of the railway family coming together to help a charity. Cakes were baked by (and the stall staffed by) volunteers from Network Rail, Northern Rail, Transport for Greater Manchester and ACoRP station adopters as well as staff from Macmillan cancer care, the charity funds were being raised for.
I’m on the move again as the weather in Manchester’s living up to its reputation and chucking it down! I’d moved on from Piccadilly to Oxford Rd where, despite the weather, I managed to get several shots of both the CAF units for Northern and one of the TPE mark 5 sets. Sadly, not side by side.
In an effort to escape the rain I headed West, over to Liverpool aboard one of the new 195s. Initially, it was to no avail as the rain was bucketing down when I arrived, but just before I left the skies began to clear and the sun appeared. Whilst I was at the station once of those one chance in a million events occurred. As the rain was so heavy I changed my mind about nipping out of the station to grab a sandwich and decided to get a last couple of shots first. As I walked past passengers waiting for the London train a woman waved at me. At first, I didn’t recognise her. As I got closer I realised it was Annette, an old friend from Southport whom I shared a flat with in when I lived in London’s East End from 1986-96. The pair of us haven’t seen each other for maybe 15 yrs! We ended up chatting for quite a while, catching up on all the events in each others lives over the past few years. It was both a nostalgic and bittersweet experience as it made me think about how many things have happened in my life since the day we picked up the keys to that flat in Bromley-by-Bow back in July 1986…
After bidding adieu to Annette I grabbed that sandwich and a few more pictures before leaping aboard one of Northern Rail’s new 3-car electric trains which was working to Blackpool North via Wigan. This was one of the more numerous 3-car varients of the Class 331 that I’ve spent time photographing around Leeds and the Aire Valley. The unit was packed but I managed to find a tip-up seat in the vestibule that was free. By the time we got to Wigan we’d caught up with the rain and I was treated to several heavy showers. The rain was so torrential that some Wigan – Southport trains were cancelled due to the line flooding. Once I’d managed a few shots of the new trains I caught a Wigan North Western -Stalybridge service made up of avpair of Class 150s, one of which is a unit (107) recently cascaded from London North Western. As you can see, the skies above don’t exactly look inviting…
Having left Wigan and constantly criss-crossed out of weather fronts I pitched up in Manchester to change trains once more. Now I’m heading back across the Pennines aboard a busy commuter service, the 17:19 to Leeds which is worked by Class 156/153 combo. The atmosphere aboard is quite subdued. There’s little sign of people looking forward to the weekend, more a like a lot of knackered folk thinking “thank God it’s Friday!”
Back in Halifax I’m meeting up with Dawn for an evening at the pictures and something the English do far better than dealing with the present or future: nostalgia. We’re off to see the ‘Downton Abbey’ film…