After the past few days gallivanting I’ve enjoyed a restful domestic Saturday at home with Dawn today. Because there’s been a severe weather warning and people have been warned not to travel discretion seemed the better part of valour. Besides, I had an awful lot of pictures to edit and get onto my Zenfolio website, which kept me out of trouble for most of the morning.
I’m writing this at 20:00 and whilst the wind is certainly starting to rise it’s hardly hurricane conditions out there. Even so, we’ve battened down the hatches which in this part of Yorkshire means that we’ve moved all the plastic recycling bins into the porch. There’s not a lot else to do where we live as we’re high up on the valley side. If we needed to sandbag the front door against flooding it wouldn’t just be us who’re in trouble, it’d be the whole damned planet!
Meanwhile, as we wait for everything to blow over, here’s a couple of examples of the pictures I’ve been taking and adding to my Zenfolio website.
Sorry for the lack of blogging but I’ve been busy with a variety of other things. Today I’ve been occupied at home as I’ve had a chap in replacing part of the bathroom floor that had been damaged by a slow leak on the water pipes to the bath. With the action taking place behind the seclusion of a bath panel you don’t realise there’s a problem until the damage is done.
Whilst the bathroom was being knocked about I was in the office next door knocking out another batch of old rail slides from 1990. By this evening I’d managed to get 40 scanned and was working on the next 20 when my laptop threw a wobbler. Despite several attempts to revive it I’ve had no success. In the morning I’ll speak to the manufacturers helpline but I’m fearing the worst.
At least everything’s backed up and there’s no danger of me losing any pictures. It’s just a massive pain in the arse. I was looking at buying a new machine as my Dell XPS 13’s almost four and a half years old and it’s taken a battering. It’s been around the world with me and seen constant use in all sorts of conditions. Apart from the cost the biggest inconvenience is the amount of time it takes to fettle a new machine by installing all the specialist programmes, software, apps, drivers and data. That is if you can find all your contracts and passwords for the stuff. Sometimes that takes longer than getting them up and running! I suspect I’ll be getting little that’s productive done for much of this week.
If I can’t get the damned thing working in the morning It’ll be a case of ordering a new machine, then heading off out to get new pictures whilst I’m waiting for it to be delivered later in the week. At least I’ll have chance to rolling blog as well – watch this space…
Having pretty much been staring at four walls all week (OK, and looking at lots of colourful pictures, but that’s not the point) I’ve made an escape from the office to try and get some contemporary library shots. Unfortunately the weather’s nowhere near as nice as last Friday, exactly the opposite in fact. We’ve low, grey clouds and drizzle, so I’m leaving the confines of the Calder valley to head West for a change of scenery and (hopefully) weather.
After strolling down to Sowerby Bridge station I was just in time to join some of the local rail enthusiasts who were waiting for a pair of DRS Class 20s which were heading to York in readiness for a railtour, which nade a nice change. As I was heading for Preston and the Blackpool North services have stopped calling at Sowerby Bridge I caught a late running Chester service to Hebden Bridge to make the connection. Fortunately, the Chester wasn’t so late that the Blackpool was put out ahead or I’d have been kicking my heels for another hour.
I’m now on a rather careworn and unrefurbished 2-car Class 158, having drawn the short-straw rather than having a new Class 195 on the route.
We’re now at Accrington, an archetypal former mill town with its rows of terraces climbing up the hillsides the the railway gives a fantastic view of as it bisects the town on a viaduct. I keep meaning to take a day out here to explore as there must be several different shots to be had of the juxtaposition of town and railway. Now the new trains are more common this is the year to make the idea a reality.
I’m now on my way from Wigan North Western after leaving Preston to continue my way West. Preston was interesting as the forms of traction really have changed in just a few months. Last year it was a nexus for driver training on Northern’s new trains. Those runs till appear, but now many of the new trains are in service, having taken over from the old BR units that were a staple of the Northern fleet. I’d hooed I might have found some of the new TPE sets in service but it wasn’t to be. Nir did I bag any Pendolinos in Avanti livery but hey ho…
Instead, I’m heading to Liverpool in search of photo-opportunities there as the weather seems to be picking up. I’m currently on one of Northern’s new 3-car Class 331s which have taken over services on this route. They’re a far cry from the pedestrian diesel units that worked the line untol it was electrified. These are old haunts for me as I grew up not far away in Southport and spent many a weekend travelling these routes back in the early 1970s. How things have changed!
Liverpool Lime St was interesting. The station’s changed so much since I first got to know it in the early 1970s. Now it’s busier than ever with new trains, new platforms and new services, like the Transport for Wales route to Chester via the long-abandoned Halton curve. It’s cleaner too as many of the services tgat used diesel units are now electrically operated. That said, there’s a bit of an odd throwback in the shape of the Trans Pennine service I caught to head back East. 5 coaches hauled (or pushed) by a Class 68 diesel locomotive! I’m not going to be too critical as the extended sets mean that I can get a seat unlike on the 3-car 185s. They’re comfortable vehicles too.
Sadly I had to bail out at Manchester Victoria where I transferred to a Northern service to get me back to Sowerby Bridge. The 3-car Class 158 I’m on now is rammed. They always are as far as Rochdale but with this being a Friday we’ve also got a complement of hen parties and other folk heading for nights out along the route.
After such stunning Christmas Day weather Boxing Day’s been a real disappointment here in Surrey. The morning’s been dominated by continuous rain and heavy winds. Foolishly, I hadn’t brought my full set of waterproofs and didn’t fancy getting a soaking, so I reluctantly flagged the traditional Tilford Boxing day walk. Dawn and her parents decided to have the day out in the car whilst I stayed at ‘home’ in the chalet and crack on catching up on some work (the beauty and the curse of being freelance, there’s always something to do, no matter what the season).
The silver lining was the fact our chalet is within a stones throw of the Duke of Cambridge pub which was one of the pit-stops for the walkers so I had chance to join them for a quick drink. Despite the weather, the mixed group of adults, kids and dogs were in good spirits – especially after drying off in a pub for a while!
After an hour or so they left to complete their walk and I headed back to the chalet to finish the work I’d lined-up. Whilst I was at ‘home’ I turned on the TV in the vain hope of finding a mild diversion that I could half-watch/listen to whilst concentrating on other things. That’s when I realised once again that you can have dozens of TV channels in a TV package but 95% of them are utter shite unless you’re a child or someone with the attention-span of a Goldfish. Looking through the schedule I’ve found one ancient Hollywood film that was pure propaganda for the US during the Vietnam War (The ‘Green Berets’, directed by and starring John Wayne) plus loads of channels that are all about flogging you stuff. I ended up turning it off and listened to music instead.
The gang’s had a brilliant couple of days in Belgium but now it’s time to make our way home. After a leisurely breakfast at our hotel our merry band piled into a taxi to the railway station and we’re now on the train back to Brussels. Despite the fact it’s a Sunday morning the double-deck push-pull set that’s working our train’s busy, mostly with people dozing! That said, we’ve managed to find some seats up on the top deck today, which is giving us all chance to catch up on news from home and the world via a plethora of portable devices.
We’re not heading back the the UK straightaway. Instead, we’re having a few hours break in Brussels. Today’s my 60th birthday, so we’re going to have a few drinks in the city to celebrate first before catching our Eurostar.
As often seems to be the case at the moment, the old axiom that plans never survive the first attack holds fast. I was intending to go back to Manchester today but ended up working in the office far longer than intended as a client (who shall remain nameless) had had been let down by a former member of staff and couldn’t locate a set of pictures I’d taken for them. To be honest, it took me a bit of digging to find them and send them duplicates. By the time all that was done and other bits and bobs sorted out thete wasn’t much point in heading West, so I nipped out to tick off another job on the list instead. Northern were running a special train through the Calder Valley for stakeholders in order to showcase the new Class 195s which will begin working Leeds-Chester services from next Monday, so I hung around to get shots of it in the valley before heading over to Leeds via Bradford and the cross-station interchange to give me a bit of exercise. After grabbing a few shots en-route I boarded a rammed Cross-country service up to York, my final destination. The plan was to get a few shots for a client that would feature the stations magnificent roof, and all went well. I’ll add a few pictures later.
I’m now on the homeward leg after catching a busy Cross-Country service from York to Leeds that was made up of a modified HST set fitted with automatic doors. Only one door set had failed, which caued a bit of a scrum as two coachloads tried to exit the remaining working door! It being Friday, the trains were even busier than normal, which added to the chaos.
Leeds was equally as busy, although the new gateline seems to be coping well under pressure. The space it’s created on the platform side is certainly welcome on a day like this.
The York – Blackpool service I’m on has been rammed all the way from Leeds. This is what it’s like on the final leg (for me at least) from Bradford. And yes, I’m sat on the luggage shelf!
And relax! In our local pub with friends and Mel reading out the Pub Paper quiz in her broadest Lancashire accent!
Yet another early start saw me in the office before 07:30, sorting out a queue of pictures from past and present. First up was finishing scanning and editing another batch of old slides from 2000 which are now on my Zenfolio site. I’ve almost completed the whole album, much to my relief! I’ve no idea what year’s next in the queue, it could be contemporary or something from the 1990s. I’ll find out soon. That done, the lightbox was consigned to the cupboard and the desk cleared to allow me to collate the latest picture choices from a client, get them captioned and added to their website. After that the day descended into the mundane as I dealt with paperwork and emails. Conscious of the fact it was glorious subshine outside I made a bid for freedom early in the afternoon and headed into Sowerby Bridge to head West. I’m currently speeding across Chat Moss aboard an ex-Thameslink Class 319 en-route to Liverpool where I plan to get creative with the camera, even tho’ the sun seems to have deserted me. Let’s see how it goes…
Oh, the joys of the all-stations stopper! I made a tactical error by catching this as we were held at Earlestown to let a late running TPE service overtake us. The problem? That TPE was one of the Hitachi Class 802 sets I was hoping to get shots of in Liverpool! Ho hum!
Bugger (pt 432).
My train was held yet again at Roby to ket two more expresses to pass, meaning that, as we approached Wavertree the train I wanted to get shots of went sailing past in the opposite direction! To add insult to injury, the heavens opened as we finally pulled into Lime St over 10 mins late.
This is where patience has to kick in. The light is awful, but there’s great potential, all I can do is wait for dusk to fall and colour return to the sky. I’d break out my old Northern Rail flask full of pea and mint soup, but then I really would look like a trainspotter!
It’s almost the end to a frustrating afternoon. I’m heading back to Manchester on TPE’s 18:57 to Scarborough. I’ve managed to get a handful of useful shots but a combination of circumstances reatricted my options. A lot of late running meant that at times the station was almost devoid of trains, which wasn’t what I needed. Once the rush-hour was over I was surprised just how quite the place was. Still, the arch roof and modern (white) lighting made for good surroundings. I’ll add them later. Now I need to think of some new locations for the kind of shots I have in mind…
I made a very rapid change of trains at Manchester Victoria, one of those that National Rail Enquiries wouldn’t even suggest. My TPE service came in at platform 3 and my Northern service to Leeds was leaving 3 minutes later from platform 6 which just gave me time to dash across the footbridge and see it coming in. This time of night you don’t hace tk fight your way past slow-moving pensioners, women with buggies or lost looking souls with suitcases the size of a small caravan, so it’s easier! I’m now relaxing on a care-worn but comfortable Class 156 where the heating’s working full belt, so it’s as warm as toast.
This isn’t going to be a long blog. The pair of us are starting to flag after getting to bed at 03:30 this morning before getting up again just a few hours later at 07:30, but it was well worth it. The ACoRP awards was a fabulous night that went without a hitch due to the great team that delivered the event. The full list of winners can be found here on the ACoRP website.
The days when Community Rail was seen as a sideshow and something eccentric or even irrelevant are long gone. Now the awards are seen as a ‘must attend’ event and have the support of the Department of Transport, Network Rail and the Train Operating Companies themselves, hence the regular attendance of the DfT’s Peter Wilkinson and Network Rail’s Chief executive Andrew Haines to name but two. But the evening belongs to the groups, most of whom are volunteers – who put in the thousands of hours that make such a difference to their stations, and their communities. As one of the awards Judges I feel very privileged to get to meet so many inspiring people who’re doing such fantastic work up and down the country. The community rail awards is our way of ensuring they get the recognition and appreciation they deserve for all the brilliant work that they do.
Here’s a few pictures to give a flavour of the event.
Right, it’s time for bed. Normal service will be resumed tomorrow when I’ve lots of pictures to add to my Zenfolio website. Watch this space…
– As Rod Stewart sang, only this night is going to be akright as it’s the annual ACoRP community rail awards. This year it’s being held in Telford, Shropshire.
Right now I’ve a few hours off to explore before the big event. I’ve never been to Telford before, so after breakfast I had a wander. Built as a new tiwn back in the 1960s you can see that the motor car featured heavily in the town’s design. It’s sprawling and features a lot of car parks. That said, obvious efforts have been made to provide plenty of footpaths and even some cycleways to compensate. I don’t think the place will win any architectural awards tho’…
Not having long I popped down to Wolverhampton for a flying visit to grab a couple of shots before heading back up the line to a place I’ve not visited since 2005, the delightful Codsall station. The old station building was converted into a pub many years ago. Run by Holden’s brewery, it’s a delightful place to visit for a pint, a sandwich and a browse of the railway memorabilia that decorates the walls.
Sadly, the weather’s not been kind to me. I’ve managed to get a few shots for the library, but now it’s time to head back and get ready for tonight and a very different style of photography…
Right, it’s time to head for the big event. Suitably ‘suited and booted’ and with all the camera kit checked and ready to go I’m off for the staff briefing…
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…