Apologies for the lack of a picture of the day these past few days. I’ve been to busy to blog as I’ve been catching up on other stuff – although I have been managing to continue with the slide scans. There’s now a healthy pile ready for editing and adding to my Zenfolio site and a search of Dee’s parents loft at the weekend has revealed that the end really is in sight! I’ve returned home with a few more albums to add to my collection at Bigland towers but after perusing them and doing some calculations I reckon I can have the remaining few thousand slides completed before the end of the year – which is going to feel like a real achievement after 30 plus years! So, without further ado, here’s today’s picture, which is from the latest batch.
I took this image of a Harley-Davidson trishaw taxi in Connaught Place, New Delhi, India on the 24th October 1991.
These weird beasties used to work like buses on a route between Connaught Place and the Red Fort in Old Delhi. They were noisy and polluting but fun at the time as they were great for using as mobile camera platforms. Most of the guys who drove them were Sikhs. Needless to say, as Delhi started to clean up its polluted act they finally went to that great motorcycle scrapyard in the sky. I’m not sure what year it was when they finally disappeared but I’d be surprised if they saw the turn of the century. Maybe a reader of this blog will know?
Soon, you’ll be able to find (and buy) this and many other pictures from my 1991-92 travel odyssey in this gallery on my Zenfolio website.
I’ve a favour to ask… If you enjoy reading this blog, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course (although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab!), but the revenue from them helps to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site – and right now (because of Covid), us freelances need all the help that we can get. Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website – https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/
Despite the fact I’d had high hopes, today was another one that wasn’t exactly vintage as so many events conspired to make it otherwise – most of which were completely out of my control – such as the weather! Much as I’d love to have the power to decide whether the sun shines or not, that ain’t going to happen, so I just had to watch the rain sweep in for much of the day – but there was a surprise feeling later.
Having been stuck in for most of the day travelling back in time scanning old pictures and dealing with paperwork the pair of us did venture out in the afternoon to drop a present at a friend’s house for his 69th birthday. Dawn has been busy the past couple of days playing around with and perfecting her Vegan chocolate recipes which was what we dropped round at our friends. In the process we found out some awful news about some other people we’ve known for many years. I’m not going to name the couple as it’s not my place to do so, but we discovered that one of them (in their early 60s) has been diagnosed as having Motor Neurone Disease – just as they’ve managed to sell their business ready for retirement. If ever you’ve wanted to curse the Gods…
Earlier on the week a friend contacted me to say that his Father had passed away due to COPD, so you start thinking ‘sheesh’! None of this has anything to do with Covid or the present situation we all find ourselves in but it does start to concentrate the mind. Needless to say, these events gave me food for thought. Despite the weather I went out for a long walk and ended up sat up on what I think of as a retreat – the cliffs on the promenade above the valley looking down on our local woods. It was dark by the time I got there and the wind was literally blowing a gale but to sit there on my own, being battered by the elements made me feel grateful to be alive and also wonder at the simple joys of living which we don’t always appreciate in these complicated times. Us mere mortals will come and go, but the seasons and the elements will always remain…
These thoughts about change are reflected in the choice of today’s picture which is from the latest batch of slide scans. I took this shot of the ferry to the Isle of Skye on the 24th July 1990.
Back then I’d take a yearly break from my London life to travel around Scotland for a week on a rail rover ticket. This particular time I pitched-up at the Kyle of Lochalsh in perfect weather so stayed a night in the hotel overlooking the terminal for the ferry across to Kyleakin on the isle of Skye. This was an idyllic spot. You may have seen from a previous blog that I’ve always had an affinity for ferries like this. Sadly, this one is long-gone. It was replaced by a bridge in 2005 – although that fact that was built as a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) project which charged huge tolls was both contentious and unpopular. Sadly, like the ferry villages in my other blog, the Kyle of Lochalsh has gone into an economic decline – even tho’ it’s still the terminus of the railway from Inverness. Still, my pictures remind me of happier times over 30 years ago…
Today, in an on-line press conference Siemens showed off the final design of the new trains they’ll be building for the Piccadilly line of London’s deep level tube network. Back in November 2018, Transport for London (TfL) commissioned Siemens Mobility to supply 94 nine-car, articulated Inspiro type trains.
In what is billed as a world first for any deep-level ‘tube’ system the trains will be fully air-conditioned, which will come as a great relief to anyone who’s ever had to use the Piccadilly line in the summer! The technical specification of the trains is impressive.
These new trains coupled with an increase in frequency of trains in peak hours from 24 to 27 trains per hour from mid-2027 (a train every 135 seconds) will provide a 23 per cent leap in peak service capacity.
The new trains feature regenerative braking capability and cutting-edge traction systems using low-loss permanent magnet motors and auxiliary electric systems that feature silicon carbide technology, as well as Lithium Ion batteries. These system will help to reduce the heat in the tunnels generated by the existing trains braking systems, despite the addition of air-conditioning. Passengers will also benefit from the wider doors and abolition of the single doors at the car ends, plus the ability to walk right through the train in the same fashion as the S-stock used on the Sub-surface lines like the Metropolitan. Siemens have released these impressions of the train interiors.
Construction of the vehicles will be split between the existing Siemens factory in Vienna, Austria and the company’s new UK factory which is under construction at Goole in the East Riding of Yorkshire. Initial testing of the fleet will be done at the Wildenrath test track in Germany.
I’m preparing to venture out on the rails for the first time this year – which is rather a long gap for me, but then 2020’s been a busy year so far. The sun looks like it’s going to play ball even if the trains possibly won’t. I’ve just looked up the real time performance of my two local operators and seen that Northern is currently running 84% of it’s services on time whilst TPE is propping up the bottom of the national league with just 63% on time and a whopping 25% either cancelled or more than 30 mins late. There’s a very useful website which uses Network Rail data to track the different companies performance throughout the day. You can find it here.
Let’s see how I get on today, and where I end up. I’ve a list of shots I need in mind, how many will I manage to get I wonder…
The walk into Halifax this morning was gorgeous due to the crisp weather and glorious sunshine. Here’s how the station looked this morning, with one of Northern’s new Class 195s arriving on a service to Blackpool.
The new units were much in evidence today. I’m now on the 10:38 to Leeds which is made up of a pair of 2-car 195s. So far I’ve only seen one old BR unit – a 153 working the Bradford – Huddersfield shuttle.
Of course this step-change in the quality of trains goes unremarked in certain political arenas. If you listened to some of the elected Mayors you’d think the Pacers were still prevelent.
I abandoned the CAF trains at Bradford Interchange and strolled across this much-maligned city to Forster Square, admiring the city’s magnificent Victorian buildings on the way. I love the quality of winter sunshine with its richness and warmth. It’s without the harshness or blue tones of summer sun and it was showing off Bradford’s buildings to their best. I paused en-route to grab a couple of pictures and I’ll add one later as an illustration.
Right now I’m sat on one of the venerable Class 321 electric units which will ship me to Shipley. Despite the arrival of the CAF 331s these remain in service.
Sadly, by the time I got to Shipley tragedy had struck. A person had been struck by a train in the Skipton area, so many Aire valley Leeds services were being cancelled. The next two for Leeds were, so I’m now on a 322 that was turned back at Keighley.
I’m assuming (but don’t know) this was a suicide as January’s always a bad month for such incidents on the railways. My thoughts go out to the unfortunate train crew and the families involved.
Having spent the best part of an hour getting pictures at Leeds I’m on the move again, this time to York aboard a Trans-Pennine Express Class 802. Unlike their trains I’m used to, this one has plenty of spare seats. I’ve even managed to bag a table to myself.
Leeds was interesting because of the sheer variety of traction you can see there. I suspect it has more variety than almost any other UK station, especially now Northern and TPE have diversified their fleets.
York was enjoyable as the winter light made for some great photo opportunities, plus there was plenty of traction variety that allowed me to tick off a few library shots. Rather than keep repeating the same images I also nipped down to Church Fenton but didn’t stay as the shadows were lengthening, making the pictures I wanted difficult. Church Fenton’s an odd place as it seems like it’s little more than a dormitory town for York or Leeds. It still boasts a four platform station as it maintains its status as a railway junction. In fact, it’ll grow in importance in that regard as this is where the spur of the new HS2 line from Leeds will join existing tracks to take HS2 service on into York and up to Newcastle. Several years ago there was a small StopHs2 ‘action’ group here but like most such groups they’ve faded away. I’ve not seen anything from them for years now.
I’m now heading back to Halifax on Northern’s 16:57 to Bkackpool North which is being worked by a totally inadequate 2-car Class 158/9. It’s absolutely rammed with 15 of us wedged in the leading vestibule gehind the driver’s cab.
I’d be interested to know where it stops but the onboard PIS tells me nothing useful apart from the fact we’re going to Blackpool North. The rest of its time is taken up with pointless stuff about security, reading safety information and telling you not to vape. The Conductor’s not made any announcements either. Thankfully, we stopped at New Pudsey, where the sardine-like conditions eased.
And relax! I’m back at home, plugging in the camera to the computer ready to download today’s pictures and add a few to the blog shortly. Despite the fun and games it’s been an instructive day. Despite the doom and gloom you hear about trains in the North there’s real signs of improvement. The hated Pacers are rapidly being displaced. I only saw a handful of sets today, a couple at Leeds and the same at York. There’s more and more of the new CAF units about, taking over routes like Blackpool North – York and many Leeds – Manchester services where they run as four cars. The 4-car electric version’s appearing more and more too. Its the same story on Trans-Pennine where the loco hauled 5-car sets are being rolled out, along with the Hitachi built Class 802 bi-modes working more Newcastle-Liverpool Lime St services. All these new trains are providing extra services and more seats, but the downside is the fall in reliability and punctuality. the problems due to staff training and unfamiliarity with new trains will soon pass (as they always do). The big problem is the infrastructure constraints and timetables that can’t be delivered because of that. What our politicians of any political hue won’t admit is that changing the name of the operator on the side of the train won’t fix the problems.
After yesterday’s excitement about the arrival into service of the new trains, today’s been back to business very much as usual with lots of late running, trains terminating short and cancellations. I popped down to Sowerby Bridge for an hour to see what was happening. It wasn’t great. Several Leeds – Southport and Chester services were cancelled with some Southport trains terminated at Wigan Wallgate. Here’s a look at some of the days services.
As this is early days and there’s always teething problems with new fleets I’m hoping these issues will be sorted out quickly. What’s harder to sort out is the cancellations and delays that have nothing to do with the new trains. After the heartache and hassle passengers and businesses have suffered over the past few years due to the rail strikes, punctuality needs addressing as a matter of urgency. It’s easy to see how the Northern TOC can become a political football when the service is so unreliable. It could be very tempting to politicians desperate to curry favour and secure a ‘cheap win’ and political plaudits by taking back the franchise. Add in the fact that Sowerby Bridge and Mytholmroyd are due to lose many of their services from the December timetable (I understand they’re due to be cut by a third during the week and by half on Sundays) and you can understand local displeasure.
It’s disappointing on another level too. Network Rail have invested in the route, having spent over £100m on new signalling track upgrades and line-speed improvements in the past few years, but this isn’t reflected in punctuality improvements. Why? What’s the route cause of the problems? I’d love to know…
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.
I’m on the rails again. This time judging three stations across Yorkshire for the ACoRP awards. After the fun and games we had last week because of the heat, today could be problematic for a different reason. We’ve had torrential rain overnight and there’s more to come. When I walked down to Sowerby Bridge station this morning I did so along roads that were full of debris washed down from some of the steeper roads, which had been transformed into waterfalls. Crossing the river Calder I could see it was way above it’s normal level, although nowhere near its worst. In 2015 it was so high it flooded the lower level of the building you can see to the left of this picture.
Arriving at the station I walked straight on to a very late running 07:00 to Leeds, which was 41 minutes down after being delayed in the Walsden area due to flooding. This is a regular occurrence in the area due to a stream that runs under the line just by the station.
I’m now waiting for the 08:48 from Leeds to Hull which is being delayed by flooding in the Stalybridge area. It’s currently 12 minutes kate, putting our 15 mins connection in peril. Not a good start to the day!
We were meant to be at Driffield on the Yorkshire coast line 10 mins ago but we did miss our connection in Hull as we were 27 mins late. We’re now on the following service, leaving us 30 mins down. Luckily(due to the vagaries of the service) we’ll still have plenty of time to do our tour.
First visit done, we’re now heading back to Hull from Driffield. Here’s a historic picture displayed on the station. It shows WW1 soldiers on the same spot we were stood, ready to go off to a war many of them never returned from
Driffield’s rather attractive. Here’s the old canal basin which is just 3 mins walk from the station
The weather’s changed and I’m rather overdressed for the rapid rise in temperature now the sun’s appeared! We’ve left Bingley and headed into Bradford and walked across the city from Forater Sq to Interchange. There’s still residual delays, which means we’ll arrive in Mytholmroyd at the right time – just on the wrong train!
The day’s done and I’m back at Sowerby Bridge, having a celebratory pint outside the Jubilee Refreshment rooms on the station before walking home. It’s a beautiful evening and such a contrast to this morning!
It’s slightly later than planned due to circumstances beyond my control, but I’m leaving a wet and miserable Calder Valley behind for a night out with friends in Liverpool. Dawn, plus Fran and Aubrey are already there and I’m catching up. Due to timings it’s not the speediest of journeys as it involves several changes of train, which is why I’m typing this now on the platform of Hebden Bridge station after arriving from Sowerby Bridge on a Blackpool service. Still, it could be worse. In the background I can hear a band playing. I’m assuming there’s an open air gig in the nearby park, which must be well soggy! I’m glad I’m not there – even tho’ the forecast for Liverpool’s no better. I’m off to see some bands too – but in a drier place. Our friends love Liverpool and have persuaded us to join them in seeing a Beatles tribute act in the resurrected ‘Cavern Club’. I’ve fond memories of the area in the 1970s when a club across the road called ‘Eric’s’ was in business. You’d get a real mix of bands in those days, from punk to old hippy bands like ‘Gong’.
We’ve booked a hotel just round the corner as we’re making the most of the weekend. All I need now is for this train to turn up…
A single Northern Class 156 turned up (almost) on time at 16:07 to ferry me across the Pennines, we’re just about to arrive in Victoria now. My fellow passengers consist of families returning home after a day out and younger folk heading out for a night in the cities clubs and pubs – although there’s not that many of them as it’s too early!
Victoria was an even more surreal experience than on a normal Saturday due to the number of young women and girls dressed as cats or book and film characters. I spotted ‘Wonder Woman’ and Rapunzel, amongst others. I’m assuming that some event’son rather than this being some bizarre co-incidence!Whilst I was waiting for the liverpool service a pair of ex-West Midlands trains Class 150s put in an appearance on a StalyVegas – sorry, Stalybridge service.
I’m currently on a TPE 185 to Lime St. It’s another train carrying a mix of families and revellers enjoying different Saturday experiences.
No time for blogging right now, there’s too much going on! Our night out has coincided with Liverpool gay pride and the city is absolutely buzzing!
We had a fab night listening to songs from the ‘fab 4’ which brought back a huge amount of happy memories as well as one or two sad ones. The Cavern was far better than I expected. It could have been touristy and tacky but it was anything but. Yes, there were plenty of tourists but they were there because they loved the Beatles music. It made for a great atmosphere.
07:29.It’s a beautiful morning in the Calder Valley today, full of sunshine and feeling like summer, but I’m already Westward bound on the 07:21 to Chester as far as Manchester. Unlike earlier in the week when this was a rammed 2 car Pacer, today it’s a 3 car Class 150+153 lash-up so there was no problem getting a seat and no-one’s been left behind anywhere.Whilst I was waiting at Sowerby Bridge a unique service passed in the opposite direction. Grand Central work an early morning service from Hebden Bridge to Leeds on behalf of Northern Rail. This calls at Sowerby at 07:17.
I’ve always wanted to get a shot of this but didn’t fancy wandering down to Sowerby Bridge at 7am unless I really had to!
We’ve just left Todmorden and summer’s drawing to a close in front of me. There’s some humongous grey clouds towering on the horizon and it’s looking like once we pass through Summit tunnel into Lancashire the weather’s going to be a bit wet! Fortunately I’ve a folding umbrella on the camera bag but the conditions might make today’s shoot ‘interesting’ to say the least. PR shots and rain are uneasy bedfellows…I’m off to the Alstom factory in Widnes to shoot pictures of one of Transport for Wales repainted and refurbished Class 175s. I’m not sure if I’ll be allowed to share any pictures just yet, so watch this space…
There’s fun and games at Manchester Victoria (where we arrived 5 mins late due to congestion) as a points failure at Earlstown’s having a knock-on effect. I’m now on TPE’s 08:10 to Manchester Airport which I’m taking as far as Oxford Rd. I’d normally walk but those grey clouds I mentioned earlier a currently dumping their load on the city! A sign of how much Victoria has changed in recent years was the fact that as my TPE service pulled in, all four through platforms were then in use by the TOC. It’s a far cry from just a few years ago when Northern had the monopoly on services through Manchester’s second station.
I’m on my 3rd train company of the day as I’m now on an East Midlands Trains service from Nottingham to Liverpool Lime St as far as Widnes.
The rain’s stopped for now but the threatening, low clouds hold the promise of more at any moment. There’s just the occaissional tantalising glimpse of blue sky and sudden shaft of sunlight to tease me.
I’m still at Alstom in Widnes. After completing a whole series of internal and external shots we’ve taken a coffee break in the hope the weather might change just enough to get a sunny external shot. After that I’ll be calling it a day. The guys need to finish working on the train at it needs to head back to Chester tonight. The bodywork looks really good as thus is a proper paint job, not just a vinyl wrap.
Job done! Patience paid off, we waited patiently for a break in the cloud and finally a break in the cloud passed over us in the perfect place for the sun to shine upon us long enough for me to get the shot I wanted.
Now I’m heading into Liverpool to grab a late lunch (and a few more pictures) before heading back across the Pennines.
On the way in we’ve just passed Allerton depot. Talk about changing fortunes! For many years the depot was derelict. Then Northern took it over as a base for the Ex-Thameslink Class 319 electric fleet which were displacing diesels. Now the depot is full of Northern’s next generation of trains, the CAF built 195 and 331s. The picture was the same at Edge Hill carriage sidings. There’s literally dozens of new Northern trains ready to enter service over the next few months as mileage accumulation and driver training is complete.
My, Liverpool Lime St’s changed in just a few short weeks! Not only are Class 195s much in evidence, so are some other interlopers in the shape of Transport for Wales who’re operating a new service to Chester. Here’s a couple of images.
Understandably, there are still teething problems with the new Northern sets. Two were being coupled together when something ‘fell off’. After a bit of head scratching and investigation staff on the scene told me it turned out to be nothing more serious than a spanner someone had left where they shouldn’t have! It caused a minor delay.
After heading back into and across Manchester the same way I came I’m now on Northern’s 18:21 from Manchester Victoria to Sowerby Bridge. As it’s a 3-car and today is ‘POETS day’ (Piss-Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday) my trains neither crowded nor the passengers stressed. That said, I feel sympathy for train crew working this evening as many stations are awash with folk on their way out and expecting to have a good time, as the amount of empty bottles & cans they’ve left behind attest to!
Today, a group of us from our local pub (The Big 6) are on tour again, this time we’re off for a canal cruise from Hebden Bridge to Sowerby Bridge and back. Watch out for pictures throughout the day.
It’s time for lunch. We’ve been going for a few hours and various people have had a go at steering the barge. We now know who not to trust with the tiller! This was my stint as I’ve been on narrowboat holidays several times before.
Eventually we moored up for lunch, scoffing lots of delicious food that Ruth and Kath had sorted out and cooked in the galley.
We’re now on our way back from Sowerby Bridge and Dawn’s proved to be a natural at navigating a narrow boat. She’s taken us through several bridges and two locks.
Here’s the full compliment, well, minus me of course as I’m behind the camera!
We even had our very own wandering minstrel in the shape of Otto Uzans, who brought his accordion along.