You’re being ‘treated’ to two blogs today as the first one was something important that needed to be said and circulated. This one’s the more usual whimsey and musings as I’ve escaped from Bigland Towers for a few hours to join ‘Team ACoRP’ for a pre-Xmas drink in Huddersfield.
The one thing about being a solo freelancer is that Xmas office parties are a bit crap! So, it’s very pleasent when you’re invited to join other friends or colleagues that you’ve worked with over the year.
Right now I’m en-route on a day when the weather has changed completely. Yesterday we had clear skies and glorious winter sunshine, today we’ve got stormclouds and gales, with gusting winds really blowing me around as I walked from home to Halifax station. I almost wished I’d brought the full camera bag to use as ballast as I’m reduced to the Nikon D5 and a single 50mm lens today.
What a lovely evening! OK, it was a bit frustrating on the rail front with the awful weather and the fact the only new TPE train that graced Huddersfield whilst I was there was unbranded.
Afterwards I adjourned to the ‘Kings Head’, one of the two pubs on the station, where I met up with the ACoRP team. Some of the group had had ‘Secret Santa’ presents (others had donated the money to charity instead) so we had a happy couple of hours playing table games over a beer (or two).
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.
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.
It feels rather surreal realising that we’re already in December. The year seems to have flashed past so quickly. The arrival of a new month has also seen the return of the sunshine. We’ve a beautifully crisp winters day here in the Calder Valley, although we won’t be seeing much of it as the pair of us are off to Manchester by train to do some Christmas shopping. Hopefully the exercise will work off some of the fantastic food we enjoyed at The Engine last night.
I’ll post a few pictures and comments through the day as time allows.
We’re on our way on a packed 3-car from Sowerby Bridge, with 7 of us sharing a vestibule. At least there’s tip-up seats in the vestibules of these old 158s so it’s not too bad! Mind you, we’ll be calling at several stations on the way, so this train could be quite ‘cosy’ by Manchester…
My prediction came true by Hebden Bridge where dozens more joined us including a cyclist who just managed to squeeze her bike into the last available space.
We added more variety at Todmorden where a chap boarded carrying a 5ft tall Xmas tree, it’s not wrapped up either! Luckily he boarded at the other end of the train!
There’s now 10 of us in this vestibule, including the Conductor, who’s doing the doors from here. To add even more variety whe’ve been joined by several children, including one dressed as the Incredible Hulk, complete with green facepaint!
Thank God we’re ‘fast’ from Rochdale, as there’s not a square inch of space left on this train. The kids are stowed away in the luggage rack and people are holding on to watever they can as we rattle and roll our way into the city…
It’s amazing how many people you can fit on a 158!
I hate shopping at this time of year when the city’s packed. Whilst the atmosphere around the Christmas market is lovely it’s a pain in the arse trying to tour the shops in search of what you want – especially when you can’t find it! In the end we did manage to salvage something from the day and ticked off a couple of items from our lists, but not much! Having exhausted our patience the pair of us adjourned to a favourite haunt in the Northern Quarter for a drink in order to gird our loins for the trip home.
Sadly, our cunning plan backfired as we arrived at the station to see our train was absolutely rammed to the gunwhales, leaving many of us unable to get on. As the next one wasn’t for another jour there was only one option that made sense – another pub and chance to explore a bit more of the Christmas market.
We’re now sat on the 18:57 to Sowerby Bridge, having arrived in plenty of time to get on this time. It was just as rammed on leaving, but we were first in the queue. It’s another 3-car Class 158 which is going to make it popular with the homeward-bound pub crowd later as the toilet door doesn’t lock!
Bliss! We’re finally home in the warm and out of the freezing cold. The mercury’s really dropping tonight and it looks like we’re in for another cold one. The Council’s gritting lorries have been busy and many of the roads have had a layer of salt since the early hours of this morning. I always wonder why it is we still use something so corrosive nowadays. Many of the buildings here that are close to the road bear the scars as the stone is eaten away by the salt splashback as vehicles drive past.
For one short day yesterday, sunshine returned to the Calder Valley. Sadly, for most of it I was stuck indoors working in the office, but I did manage to escape for an all to brief period just before sunset and managed to capture this image looking across the valley from where we live to Norland, high up on the other side.
For the photographers amongst you, this was taken on manual and under exposed to bring out the depth of colour in the skies. I used my Nikon D5 with an 80-400mm lens on 200mm. ISO1250, 1/200th at F8.
When we woke up this morning not only had the temperature dropped well below freezing, leaving the valley covered in frost but the clouds had returned to half-hide the valley bottom and bring back the gloomy half-light we’ve lived under for the past few weeks. But we’re not letting it get to us as we’re having an evening out with friends, so expect a few pictures later. Right now we’re off to do some chores before getting in a Saturday stroll along the canal into Sowerby Bridge to meet up with the gang…
Sorry, this rolling blog never got updated because I was too busy having a fantastic time with friends. 16 of us went to the Engine in Sowerby Bridge tonight and had an excellent meal, then a few drinks afterwards. I’ll add more tomorrow, right now it’s time to relax at home…
As promised, here’s a few pictures from last night.
Having walked to Halifax station after a later than usual start due to the dank and dismal weather I was greeted by news of an equally dismal rail service! Here’s the PIS screen..
So here I am waiting for a train to Leeds, wondering which late-running one will turn up first. So far we’ve had services delayed or cancelled due to no traincrew, a late-running freight train, the train being late off the depot and a train with an onboard fault! What next, pestilence or the pox, or a plague of frogs?
It’s not difficult to see why long-suffering Northern travellers have such a poor opinion of Northern services. There’s not a day that goes by without delays or cancellations. Mind you, I should be thankful I can travel today. Yesterday both East and West Coast main lines were blocked by different incidents. The truth is that our railways simply aren’t resilient enough in the face of disruption and running ever more services on a crowded network isn’t helping.
I’m finally on the move as a Huddersfield – Leeds train has turned up. To add insult to Northern sensibilities, it’s a 2-car Pacer! These should have been reduced to just a handful of trains with only a month left in service. Instead, they’ll still be running in 2020. Here’s the scene as I boarded.
Our Pacer’s now struggling manfully up the bank out of Bradford Interchange full and standing. It was busy on the way in from Halifax but this is a different order of magnitude!
At least I’ve got a seat and the heating’s keeping me toasty, so I’m not complaining. I’m just glad I’m not stood at New Pudsey, hoping to catch this train!
We bounced and rocked our way to Leeds, managing to squeeze just a handful more passengers on from the dozens waiting at our next stops. Our apologetic Conductor telling those left behind that there was another train just behind us.
As we pulled into Leeds I noticed that a large gaggle of yellow painted MEWPs were being assembled in the land between the triangle of tracks. These road/rail Mobile Elevated Work Platforms (hence MEWP) are used for maintaining and renewing overhead lines and their presence suggests Leeds will have a heavy ‘orange army’ presence this weekend.
I didn’t have much time in Leeds as shortly after I arrived the stock for LNER’s 10:15 to Kings Cross arrived from London formed of one of the remaining Mk4 coach sets worked by 91109, named “Bobby Robson” after the famous football manager. This being an off-peak service and because of yesterday’s problems the train’s rammed. I’ve managed to find an airline seat in the quiet coach, but my plan to get a load of work done has suffered a blow as the adjacent power socket’s kaput.! I’ll see how things are after wwe leave Doncaster…
I’m now on an LNER ‘Azuma’, havng abandoned the mark 4 set at Doncaster in favour of 1E09, the Glasgow – Kings Cross that was running 10 mins behind. It’s a busy 9 car but I was lucky and found a free table in coach K right up against the 1st Class portion of the vehicle. The socket works, so I’m up and running!
Even the weather’s decided to play ball and brighten up. I’ve just glimpsed something I’ve not seen for days – a patch of blue sky! OK, admittedly it was a fleeting glimpse, and there’s plenty of tough looking stormclouds keeping it company but even so…
We’re in North London now and the weather’s like it was back in the Calder Valley, just a little more mixed, with thinner cloud. Good job the only backgrounds I’m expected to get in today’s photos are office blocks!
On arrival in London I made a quick detour to Euston to drop something off with an old friend, have a quick chat and get this shot to show progress on demolishing the former Railtrack HQ to make way for HS2.
Job No 1 done I’m taking a few minutes to enjoy old haunts and admire the changes…
Now I can admit what the second part of the job was! The Green Party and StopHs2 had arranged a ‘big’ protest outside the Department of Transport between 3-4pm today, so I thought I’d pop along and show you what the media (with their close cropped shots of the main speakers) don’t show you! The event was a miserable flop with less than 2 dozen people – including the media – turning up. Needless to say, none of the stophs2 keyboard warriors were there, it was just the same few faces. Green ‘Co-leader’ Bartley turned up, as did Harvil Rd protester Sarah Green. The Green’s candidate in Uxbridge, Mark Keir, was also there. He gave a barely coherent interview to the couple of cameras who’d bothered to attend. Remember, this is the man who stood in Uxbridge in 2017 and reduced the Green party’s share of the vote! The only thing of interest (but not to his advantage) that he did say was by constantly appealing for people to turn up to their ‘direct action’ protests such as Harvil Road. What’s painfully obvious when you see the tedious phone videos they post to their Facebook page is just how few of them there are. They’re completely outnumbered by HS2 staff, security and (when needed) the police.
StopHs2’s Joe Rukin was also there, getting his money’s worth out of his ridiculous tree costume. After that there were half a dozen people holding up banners and, err, that was it. It was excruciatingly embarassing when you think of all the bluster we hear about the country being up in arms about HS2! It also shows just how badly the Green party have misjudged this issue. Fracking or roadbuilding it ain’t and their desperate attempts to spin just how much environmental damage HS2 is meant to be causing are backfiring. Here’s a couple of pictures of the debacle. These are phone shots. I’ll add better ones later.
Here’s a little video too…
I’m now heading North on yet another Azuma. Just in case folk think it’s only travel in the north that stuffs up, let me relate a couple of today’s experiences in the capital. On arrival, my first trip was via Thameslink, a network that suffers delays and cancellations on a regular basis and yes, my first train was cancelled, leaving me hanging around for an extra 10 minutes for the next Southbound service across central London. Afterwards I abandoned public transport and opted to walk from Blackfriars to the DfT as I was in no rush and a walk along the South bank of the Thames brings back lots of lovely memories of my days as a Londoner. On the way back I chose to get the Victoria line from Victoria to Kings Cross. Joining the crowds on the platform we waited and waited. Normally you can expect Vicky line trains to be one after the other but due to a ‘passenger incident’ at Vauxhall we were left waiting for a good 10-15 mins. Not a huge amount of time in the scheme of things, but an absolute age on the London Underground!
The penultimate leg! I swapped from the 17:16 ‘Azuma’ Kings Cross – Hull onto the 17:31 Kings Cross – Leeds at Doncaster. Both are 9-car trains and with their loadings on leaving London you can see why! I must admit, these trains are growing on me and the onky thing I’ll miss compared to the Mk3 and Mk4 coaches they’ll replace is the ambience you could get in the buffet cars, especially on a Thursday/Friday. The cramped offering on all the Hitachi sets is far too functional, but I can understand why (from a comnercial perspective) that is.
Last train of of the day folks – and it’s another Pacer. This time one of the Andrew Barclay bodied Class 144s, so a little more up-market! In these days of electronic communications and real-time information it’s frustrating when you see your train described as ‘arrived’ when you’re stood on a nice warm concourse only to find on the platform PIS it’s announced as running late when you’ve made the trip early…
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!
I was up before sparrow fart this morning as I have to be in London for a commission with Network Rail at Euston at 09:00, then in Birmingham in the afternoon for the ACoRP AGM.
Right now I’m walking down to Halifax station to potentially catch the second train of the day – if it’s running to time. My connections are tight if I’m going to be punctual and punctuality isn’t great in the leaf-fall season. There’s no rain this morning, which is a bonus. Instead it’s clear and frosty. The gritting lorries have been busy overnight and as it’s quiet this time of morning i’m walking on the roads rather than the leaf-strewn pavements. Yorkshire stone slabs may look pretty, but in the autumn they’re as slippery and untrustworthy as Boris Johnson!
I’m taking a chance and this could all go horribly wrong, but I’m now on the 05:50 from Halifax to Manchester Victoria, which is being worked by one of Northern’s new Class 195s. It was 3 mins late arriving from Bradford and it’s the first service of the day through the Calder Valley across the Pennines, so I’m taking a risk! I’m sat in the front car and it’s freezing! There’s no heating on and the information screens aren’t working either. The Conductor’s apologiesed and explained that the units come straight off Neville Hill depot and “hasn’t got going yet”!
We’ve just left Sowerby Bridge, where I could have caught the train from (and had an extra 15m in bed) but i’d have been without a plan B (going via the East Coast) if the train had been late or cancelled. To be fair, we’re not doing badly. The driver took it easy leaving the station but the railhead conditions musn’t be too bad as he’s making the most of the unit’s superior acceleration and braking.
We’re now leaving Hebden Bridge and I’ve noticed another thing about this unit (195109) which is there’s a real whistling sound at speed. The unit feels very draughty and I suspect it’s coming from the driver’s door!
The whistling and draughts were annoying enough to make me move into the centre car. It’s still freezing in here but it’s not as draughty! Our timekeeping’s not bad. We’re only 2 mins down departing from Todmorden so I’m cautiously optimistic. In the bay of seats behind me are two men complaining about the service Northern Rail have been providing. To say the TOC has an image problem is an understatement!
We’ve left Rochdale 5 mins late. I can feel the wheels slipping here but the driver’s done well. My connection time in Manchester is going to be very tight, but I might just make it. I’ll let you know if I do afterwards! I’m looking forward to sitting on a nice warm Pendolino with a steaming cup of coffee in my frozen hands…
Bugger – missed it! A 5 minute late arrival into platform 6, the furthest away from the barriers that involves a scrum on the footbridge, meant that – despite a heroic sprint across the city centre – I missed the 07:00 Euston train by 2 minutes! I’m now thawing out in coach C on the 07:15 Pendolino which gets me into Euston 20 mins late. I’m sure my Network Rail colleagues will understand!
Another calamity has befallen me. The coffee machine’s kaput! This could have been an absolute disaster were it not for the fact the chap in the shop had a stash of coffee bags, so I managed to get a brew after all…
We’ve just left Stoke-On-Trent and the few seats keft unoccupied after leaving Stockport have filled up. This is a peak service so tickets aren’t cheap, but that’s not deterred the many business travellers who’re heading down to London for the day. This train’s now fast to Milton Keynes, so I’ll be interested to see how many alight there.
Weatherwise, we had a cracking sunrise around Stockport but now the mist has settled, marring visibility despite the thin, high cloud. I don’t travel the WCML anywhere near as much as I used to, so I’m going to sit back and enjoy the journey for a while.
We’ve just called at Milton Keynes, which became a bit of a scrum because of the passenger churn. Many left us, but many more joined and this train’s now standing room only. Outside, the weather’s changed too. The sky is clear blue whilst the mist has mistly burned off, leaving a lot of the country and lineside steaming in the warm sunshine.
Phew! part 1 of the day’s been done and I now have portraits of 20 members of Network Rail staff in the can after a busy morning at Eversholt St. Despite arriving 25 mins late we managed to catch up time and get through all the pictures that were needed. I even had a bit of time spare to check out progress on the HS2 demolition work around Euston station and the Regent’s Park estate.
Right now I’m on another Virgin Pendolino, this time a 9-car set working the 13:03 from Euston to Birmingham New St in order to get to the ACoRP AGM.
Sadly, the wonderful autumn sunshine I had on the way down and in London has given away to more typical gloomy weather.
Keeping busy at the ACoRP AGM…
The AGM finished at 16:00 but Dawn and I resisted the opportunity to hang around for a drink as we’d seats booked on the 16:57 Cross-Country service to Manchester Piccadilly. These trains are always packed, so it was worth making use of the reservations.
True to form, there was an absolute scrum to get on the train at New St, then the scramble as people (including us) tried to get to their reserved seats. If there’s one train I actively dislike, it’s these. It’s neither fish nor fowl, neither a proper intercity train nor an adequate local one. The sooner these services are replaced by HS2 the better.
15 mins late, but we’re finally in sight of Manchester Piccadilly where we can abandon this train, get some fresh air and clear our ears of the management bollocks being spouted by the guy sat opposite who’s insisting on having a loud (but ultimately pointless as it’s devoid of any real content) conversation on his mobile!
Having traversed Manchester from Piccadilly to Victoria we arrived to find our train home had been cancelled! We’d have been quicker staying at Picc & coming home via Huddersfield. Adjourning to a local history to drown our sorrows and eat crisps we ended up catching the 19:37 instead. We’re now bouncing our way back to Yorkshire on a Pacer (142018 to be precise).
The end of a looong day! I’ve been up since 04:30, travelled hundreds of miles (and walked nearly 11, burning 3.5k calories), visited three of our biggest cities and taken hundreds of photos, so it’s time for a little relaxation and the chance to enjoy a soak in a bath with some of Islay’s finest whisky as a nightcap. Goodnight!
We’re both up, scrubbed, fed, packed and waiting for the taxi to take us to Halifax station to meet up with our friends for the first leg of our trip to Bruges in Belgium….
Leg one. Having met up with the others we’re now on Grand Central’s 08:09 from Halifax to Kings Cross, a direct train service from Bradford that started running in 2010. Nowadays their 4 five- car trains are packed, even in First Class. Don’t let this picture fool you, just look at how many seats are reserved which will be occupied in the next few stops…
The six of us are spread throughout the train as tickets were booked separately. It’ll be the same on Eurostar, so the only time we’ll meet up is between trains or in the buffet on the Eurostar!
We had a mad scramble in London as some people had breakfast (which was late coming) then confusion at Eurostar check-in as they were overwhelmed by the weight of numbers. With the amount of baggage folk carry nowadays the number of staff and machines available were overwhelmed, leading to stress all round. Passport control was just as swamped. Despite checking in the required 45 mins before we still had to be ‘fast-tracked’ to get to our train on time. This led to confusion as the group got split up. Despite this, we made it and we’re just pulling out now.
Our train is one of the original Alstom built TMST sets, albeit a refurbished one. Our coach (16) only has a handful of empty seats
16:00. (Belgium time).
About to arrive in Brussels. It’s been an interesting trip I’ll blog more about shortly once we change yrains, but suffice to say these old trains are tired, despite the refurbishment.
So much for updating the blog on a nice, quiet Belgian train. This is us on a double-deck train from Brussels Midi to Brugges. It’s rammed!
– and relax! We’ve arrived at our hotel in Brugges, checked in and freshened up. Now it’s time to explore. First stop is a liytle var kbown to Tony (Allan) that I’ve just heard some very good things about. According to anither friend it’s like walking into “The Leaky Cauldron” from the Harry Potter films. Expect pictures shortly!
Northern’s new CAF built Class 195s have entered passenger service through the Calder Valley today on the routes from Leeds – Chester and Leeds – Manchester Victoria. Needless to say, I’m out with the camera to capture pictures of this important milestone. It’s the culmination of improvements to the line that have seen the route resignalled, linespeeds increased and platforms lengthened.
I’ll be adding pictures throughout the day. Here’s the first as 195123 picks up passengers at Sowerby Bridge whilst working the 10:22 from Chester to Leeds.
I’ve caught a late-running Chester service which is worked by 195110. These trains are certainly a step-change to the old BR built units we’ve been used to since the 1980s! They’ve far superior acceleration and braking, not to mention all the facilities that passengers have come to expect nowadays, such as power sockets and free wifi. They’ve also got far more seating bays with tables.
Sorry folks, It didn’t turn out to be much of a rolling blog as I was too busy taking pictures! Since I got home earlier this evening I’ve been busy editing them, so here’s a small selection. You can find the full gallery here on my Zenfolio website.
For the number crunchers, the list of units seen in passenger service is as follows. Two car 195002 and 195007. Three car 195103. 195110. 195111. 195119. 195121 and 195123.