28th May picture of the day…

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Well, that’s it – We’re now both now ‘double-dosed’ – having received the second of my Covid jabs yesterday and Dawn today. Compared to the first dose this one hasn’t been too bad. I don’t feel any major side effects – apart from the fact my 5G reception’s amazing and I’ve developed a curious interest in ‘news’ programmes on Russia Today!

The same as last time I received my jab at Boots the chemist in Huddersfield, where part of the 1st floor’s been converted for the purpose. It was a slick operation but not as quick as last time because they had more people wanting the jab, which can only be a good thing. That said, most of the folks I overheard talking were like me and in for their second dose. I can only hope that the succesful rollout of the inoculation programme will allow us to return to normal, even if normal won’t be what it was. The big question now is how the rest of the world fares as I suspect it won’t be until next year that we’re finally out of the woods.

Dawn’s reaction to her second jab seems much like mine – feeling ‘Meh’, and with a few neck cramps, but that’s it. Infinately preferable to the alternative anyways! Neither of us had anything planned for today as we didn’t know how we’d react so we’ve had a quiet (if productive) day. Whilst I’ve spent the day scanning the last slides from my 1991-92 world trip Dawn’s been busy baking. The smells drifting up from the kitchen as a Victoria sponge cake’s cooking have been wonderful!

The pair of us are having a quiet night in so all that remains is for me to choose the picture of the day. I’ve a large backlog of slides scanned that need editing, so I thought I’d use the very last one I have from my trip before I flew back from Kuala Lumpur to London with Aeroflot. Reading through my old diaries there’s sooo many stories that I could relate – but they’ll be saved for when I have more time to spend writing.

My last day was ‘interesting’ as I only had 6 Malaysian Ringgitt left. I’d maxxed out my credit card on buying my flight back to the UK and that was the only cash I had left. I had enough to buy a bunch of Rambutans (a fruit similar to a Lychee) and the fare for the bus to the airport. Oh, and my camera was playing up too. The mirror kept locking up so I never knew if it would work or not. But, I managed to get this final shot on the 8th October 1992. I was people watching outside the Central market and spotted this blind musician busking along with his daughter/grand-daughter. I may have been on my uppers but nothing like this. Never forget, there’s always someone worse off than you…

Having spent the past few months looking back 30 years I’ve often wondered what happened to the people in my pictures? From the other travellers I met and spent time with to random street scenes like this. This young girl would probably be a middle-gaed mother by now, probably with Grandchildren of her own. I wonder what the stories of their lives were after I froze them as moments in time three decades ago? They’ll live forever like this in pictures, but what happened afterwards?

Hopefully I’ll have the rest of the old scans edied and added to this gallery in the next week or so. After that I move on to albums from the next phase of my life. Having returned from travelling in 1992 my life took a very different turn – and travelling became an even bigger part of it…

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26th May picture of the day…

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I’m not going to be writing a magnum opus tonight, the pair of us have had a lovely day with Dee being on holiday and the country coming out of its Covid shell so a short blog will have to suffice. The pair of us have really enjoyed having a lazy aftermath to Dawn’s birthday. The weather was crap so what was the point of getting up early and travelling to the coast as we’d originally planned? Instead, we took it easy and relished in the fact we had nowhere to be. Instead we lazed at home, Dawn did her stuff whilst I followed the political car-crash and score-settling that was Dominic Cummings giving evidence on the Government’s response to Covid. Or rather, the Government’s lack of a response. It was a an awful spectacle as it showed just how far the UK has sunk when it comes to politics and the people and parties many are willing to entrust with their vote. Here we had the spectacle of a liar accusing other liars of lying! Who to believe, eh?

By late afternoon we did decide to venture out and made it as far as the Bolster Moor farm shop to pick up food supplies for the next few weeks and indulge in a guilty pleasure – one of their award winning pork pies. Well, when in Yorkshire!

On the way home we stopped off at an old favorite that’s recently re-opened – the Moorcock Inn on Norland Moor. Because we’re allowed indoors once more the awful weather was no deterrent. Catching up with Aimee and the folks who work there really made us feel like we’re coming out of Covid – even if the road may be rocky.

Now, back home we’ve been busy again. Dee’s been occupied in the kitchen (with some help from me) prepping a batch of home-made lasagna whilst I’ve been editing a few more old slides – which supply the picture of the day.

Following in David Attenborough’s footsteps I visited Komodo Island (famed for its ‘Dragons) on the 2nd September 1992. In those days the park rangers used to take small tour groups off into the hinterland to see dragons which were waiting to be fed. a dozen of us would be accompanied by a couple of PHPA wardens and a goat but for the goat it would be a one-way trip. Here’s how feeding time looked…

Talk about nature ‘raw in took and claw’…

I went back in 1998. By then the wardens has stopped feeding the Dragons as it has made them lazy, so you’d never get to see scenes like this again.

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Rolling (ish) blog: Birthday girl…

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I’ll be updating this blog bit by bit throughout the day but it’s not a conventional rolling blog for the simple reason that’s it’s my wife’s birthday and I’d be in deep do-do if I was spending most of the day bashing away at a keyboard or staring at my smartphone!

The day’s started well if slowly. I brought the birthday girl tea and a bunch of flowers in bed then it was time to open all her cards and some prezzies before getting ready to go out for brunch. The weather’s cloudy and gloomy but we’re still going to walk into Halifax where we’ll meet Dee’s parents at the Piece Hall as part of the celebrations. It’s wonderful to be able to do this again although we were surprised to hear the news that the Government’s changed its advice about meeting up in nearby Kirklees without telling anyone.

I only found out this norning by reading about it on Twitter! I shouldn’t really surprised. This bunch have become a watchword for incompetence so this is par for the course. Dawn’s parents live in Kirklees and both have had their double Covid jabs and Dawn and I will have ours later this week, so the government ‘advice’ can ‘do one’ for once. We’ll take all sensible precautions – which is more than some Government Ministers and Advisors ever have!

11:10.

Time for brunch at the unique and rather superb Piece Hall. It being Tuesday not all the bars and cafes were open but there was enough to keep visitors fed and watered.

14:25.

Brunch turned into coffee and cake at a lovely little cafe tucked away near one of the top corners of the hall where the four of us whiled away a pleasant hour chatting and watching the Piece Hall slowly return to life. The Deli is run by the Piece Hall Trust and returns profits to the trust to keep the building running. The cafe’s only small (even smaller now tables have been stripped out to maintain social distancing) but the coffee’s very good and the staff are excellent – so friendly, helpful and cheerful. Plus, it was great to see people (cautiously) enjoying the freedoms they’ve regained after so long.

Coffee over we parted company until later and the pair of us walked home, strolling along some of the towns back streets, discovering some of Halifax’s hidden gems. There’s an amazing variety of buildings here, from huge mansions to back to backs, all linked by a maze of backstreets and footpaths. It’s always an adventure as we suddenly decide to veer off down a street we’ve never explored before. Admittedly, we had to keep one eye on the skies as rain was on the horizon which cut short our wanderings but we managed to make it home before the showers arrived.

Back at home we decided there was nothing for it but to put the heating on and break out the Scrabble board for a couple of hours before we needed to get ready for heading to the restaurant to celebrate Dee’s birthday in style…

16:05.

Our Scrabble match is neck and neck on points so we’ve set it aside whilst we get ready to head out to the restaurant. The weather’s finally brightened up so we’re hoping for a pleasant trip over to the 315 restaurant at Lepton, near Huddersfield.

19:50.

Yum, my starter – roasted scallops, Parma ham, pea puree, cauliflower and garlic dressing..

22:37.

Back home after a super evening with the four of us in the 315. The food was excellent and the staff were lovely. I’ll flesh this out more in the morning but for now here’s a couple more pictures of the main courses. I had the Venison;

Dawn chose the duck;

Both were cooked just right, presented well and were delicious!

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Thank you!

23rd May picture of the day…

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Apologies for the absence from blogging but I’ve been taking some time off now the UK is slowly opening up. I’ve been getting out and about more which has led to a hectic social whirl and a backlog of pictures and admin’ but it’s a lovely position to be in after so long. The pair of us have been busy as Dawn’s got two weeks holiday which started on Friday so we’ve been clearing the decks for that. Plus – I’ve spent two evenings in…pubs! Yep, remember those things? The valley’s been busy with different friends passing through – not all of which I managed to catch up with, but on Thursday I had the chance to meet a chap called Martin Ward. Martin and I cycled ‘Ride India’ together in 2018 and her was here in the valley with his family enjoying a break on a canal narrowboat, so it would have been rude not to. Plus, on Friday a group of us from the ‘Big 6’ pub (which is undergoing a change of management so hasn’t re-opened) who’ve been doing a weekly quiz via Zoom finally had the chance to meet up in the flesh again using a surrogate pub – the ‘Shepherds Rest’ in SA few other refugees from ‘the 6’ drifted in so it turned into a really nice night.

On Saturday Dawn and I drove over to my old home town of Southport to meet up with some of my family. First up was my niece, Charlotte whom we spent a very pleasant couple of hours with outside a cafe in Birkdale. The village has gone rather upmarket over the past 20 years as it’s a conservation area. Many of the cafes and shops near the station have old Victorian iron and glass canopies outside, so it’s an ideal place to sit and pass the time – even if it was a bit windy. Afterwards, Dawn and I met up with my sister Anne and her daughter Brier for a celebratory early birthday meal – something we’ve not been able to do since the first lockdown. I’d booked a table at Bistro Bar Med in the centre of town. one of us had visited before but we all really enjoyed the food, which is a mixture of Spanish Tapas and Turkish mezes.

It was wonderful be able to visit a restaurant again and Bar Med was ideal. The Owner and his staff were great hosts and the food was delicious! The place isn’t huge, which added to the atmosphere as it was more intimate and personal. I really liked the way the food was served – as you can see here. It saved a lot of space on the table and the wheel arrangement meant it was easy to share dishes. We’d certainly visit again as I love this communal way of eating, the quality of the food and the atmosphere. So, today’s picture is of something I’ve not posted for a very very long time – food!

We’re big fish eaters so our selection of five Tapas dishes was Green-lipped mussels, king prawns and Sardines, accompanied by meatballs and Patatas Bravas. The bread rolls meant none of the delicious sauces went to waste!

Eating ‘early doors’ allowed us to drive back to West Yorkshire without getting back too late, leading to an easy night. Today we’ve had a quiet day. The weather’s been pretty crappy again as it’s cold, wet and windy – distinctly unseasonal so we’ve not really done much apart from getting out for a short walk. That said, we’ve got plenty of plans, especially after a surprise. I’ve got my second Covid jab booked for Thursday but Dawn (being younger than me) hadn’t heard about hers – until this morning. Now Dee will get her second the day after me on Friday, so we’re both covered for the future, this is timely as we’re currently looking at our first foreign adventure for the future which will be somewhere I’ve been many times but Dawn’s never visited. Bali. Let’s just hope this happens as we’d be out there for a special occasion…

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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/

Thank you!

19th May picture of the day…

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There’s been no travelling for me today, unless you call going out for a walk travelling. Instead I’ve been busy at home editing the past two days worth of pictures and getting them on my website which took up nearly all of the morning. Once that was done I had time to email a couple of clients who’ve expressed an interest in them. To be honest, I was quite happy to be stuck at home. The gorgeous sunny weather I experienced yesterday was clearly a flash in the pan judging by the forecast. Today we’ve still had some sunshine but it’s also been accompanied by torrential showers and even hail – in May! Now the temperatures dropping and it looks like we could be in for a cold night. Sadly, the weather’s predicted to be pretty crappy tomorrow too, so I may just be spending another day in the office but as I’ve plenty to keep myself occupied with, I’m not too bothered. After all, sat on my desk there’s another 60 old slides already mounted and awaiting scanning, just waiting for a rainy day! There’s also some blogging I’d like to catch up with as I’ve still not written an update on progress building HS2 (there’s lots) – so let’s see what happens.

As the scanning progresses I’m building up a massive archive of material for ‘picture of the day’. I reckon I’d have to live to be 100 just to show them all! Here’s today’s picture which was taken on the 29th June 1992 at Lake Maninjau, West Sumatra, Indonesia.

Here a local bus is slowly making its way up from the lake in the crater (yes, this was once a massive volcano) climbing up a road with 44 hairpin bends to allow it to gain sufficient height to breast the lip of the crater. It’s not a journey for the faint-hearted. As you can see, it’s a very fertile area. You walk past some superb rice terraces or little homesteads with their own fishing ponds and vegetable gardens. Not being daft, I’d taken one of these buses half way up in order to walk down getting pictures. Even so, it was quite a trek but well worth it for the views although by the time you get to the bottom you’re ready for a cold beer! You can find more pictures from the series in this gallery on my Zenfolio website.

Soon after this I finally moved on from Sumatra to Java and continued my island-hopping journey all the way to Timor, so expect plenty more pictures from the amazing country of Indonesia…

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Thank you!

Rolling blog: the hunting of the Class 769…

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09:11

As I’m not trekking across half the country today there’s been no ‘up at sparrowfart’ start. Instead I’m soaking up the sun at Sowerby Bridge, waiting for Northern’s 09:04 to Wigan Wallgate. Today’s mission (which I’ve chosen to accept) is to track down and get some decent shots of the bi-mode, 4-car Class 769s which have now entered service between Alderley Edge and Southport. The units operate on electric power as far as Bolton, then switch to diesel.

The 769s are a conversion from the all-electric Class 319s owned by Porterbrook leasing which previously worked Thameslink services through the heart of London. Porterbrook had surplus electric trains coming out of their ears, with few takers for them due to a glut of new trains and the Government cancelling some electrification schemes that could have seen them gainfully employed – like on the truncated Midland Main Line scheme where I was yesterday.

To help provide a solution to the surplus, the boffins at Porterbrook came up with a cunning plan. Why not convert some of these trains by sticking a a pair of MAN diesel engines under the driving cars coupled to an alternator to convert them to bi-mode. Of course, like most simple ideas it was anything but. Fitting the engines and alternators and associated kit involved a lot of jiggery-pokery under the frames of the units and some components were swapped between vehicles to ensure even weight distribution. Technical problems (then Covid) knocked the programme back, leaving the Northern trains entering service 3 years late. But now they’re here. The units are capable of 100mph under electric power and 75mph on diesel traction, giving them a performance on diesel that’s superior to one of the units they’ve displaced on Southport services – the venerable, BR built Class 150s (which I’ve always felt as sluggish – and noisy). They’re billed as less polluting on diesel than the 150s too due to their modern power management systems. Northern have eight of the units. Others are (or will be) operated by GWR, Transport for Wales and Rail. Rail Operations Group (ROG) will have two for freight use.

I’ll be adding to this blog throughout the day, so keep popping back to see what I get up to. Right now I’m on that Wigan train…

10:15.

We’re bumbling along the old L&Y Rly main line via Walkden where it’s great to see so many stations receiving a brush-up and lick of paint. Walkden itself seems to have some interesting metal sculptures. I’ll try and stop off to get pictures on my way home.

11:30.

My train was late into Wigan North Western but I still had time to make it across the road to nearby Wallgate where two 769s on the Southport – Alderley Edge services crossed, one of which would take me West.

Here’s the first of the days pictures…

12:25.

A bumped ino an old aquaintence on the train. Phil’s a guard for Northern and was out doing the same as me before he started his shift. We had a great little chat about the detail differences between 319s and 769s and how the 769s perform on diesel power. Their acceleration’s never going to beat any records but for low-speed lines like the Southport route that’s hardly a problem.

I left Phil at my first port of call and a place I know of old – Burscough. I’m now playing a game of ‘tag’ with the cloud Gods, but managed this early shot when they weren’t looking!

14:34.

Having spent several hours around Burscough and Hoscar I’m about to move on again. Thankfully the skies have done nothing but clear so there’s less of those little fluffy white buggers to get in the way of the sun at crucial moments. I’ve now got a series of shots in the can so it’s time to change location and head to my old hhome town – Southport. Never in a million years would I have expected to see a Class 319 at the seaside, but there you go! I’lladd some pictures from these parts later when I have editing time. Right now I’m making the most of rge weather. In the past I’ve mentioned the expensive white elephant that was the new station building at Burscough Bridge. It was built at exactly the wrong time (2004) when the internet was changing ticketing forever. Vacant for years its found a temporary use as a place to pick Covid home testing kits!

Heading to Southport on 769448 I can see just how lucky I’ve been with the weather. The West Lancashire plain allows unobstructed views and ‘big skies’. Just a few miles either side of me I can see heavy banks of cloud – and the Southern bank (which is closer) looks especially unhappy!

16:15.

Having reached Southport and managed a few useful shots in the sunshine I’m beginning to retrace my steps courtesy of the 16:15 to Alderley Edge which is yet another Class 769. Whilst they’re roomy and well-presented there’s a couple of things I feel are missing. Unlike other Northern trains there are no USB charging points – and no tables. They’re very much traditional Class 319s in this respect.

18:30.

I’m station-hopping right now, making the most of the glorious weather whilst I can. My first port of call was somewhere very familiar: Parbold. It’s a lovely little station with a level crossing that’s still guarded by an original Saxby and Farmer signalbox although it’s modern barriers it controls now rather than heavy wooden gates. Unlike the box the adjacent Railway pub hasn’t stood the test of time. It’s closed down, waiting to be turned into a housing development.

My next port of call is also the only station on the line I’ve never visited before despite living on this line as a kid. Gathurst. I vividly remember it as a child as it was one of the last to have an active goods yard – and more. Back in the 1970s there was an ICI gunpowder works nearby which was linked to the main line by a narrow-gauge railway. Explosives were then transhipped to BR wagons. It was always a delight to see the narrow gauge train in action. Here’s a link to an old picture.

Of course all that’s long gone, although the original station building survives as a (currently closed) pub. I’ll add pics later.

22:00.

Home again! It’s time to round off this blog with a few pictures from today trip before saying goodnight. Tomorrow I’ll be working at home as I’ve 2 days of travels to edit pictures from. In the meantime, here’s some of today’s tasters.

‘Look Dad – no wires’! 769424 passes Hoscar whilst working a Southport – Alderley Edge service.

Not a sight I’d ever thought I’d see – 769431 arrives at Southport from Alderley Edge.

The old Lancashire and Yorkshire railway station building at Gathurst which is now a pub. You can find them on facebook at the Gathurst station Inn. They’ll be reopening soon…

Right, that’s all for now folks, goodnight!

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/

Thank you!

Rolling blog: Opening up…

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Today’s the day the country’s starting to open up. After so long in an unprecedented ‘lockdown’ many restrictions are being lifted and we can (cautiously I’d hope) begin to enjoy some of the old freedoms that we used to take for granted. To say it’s been a tough time for many would be an understatement. A significant number of people are no longer here to see it. Hopefully now the ones of us who are won’t screw it up and may even have learned a few things.

As part of that opening up the railways switched to a new timetable from yesterday, today’s the first working day. It’s annual event but this year it has greater significance as it sees many train services restored that were curtailed by Covid as people were discouraged from travelling by public transport. I’m out and about to see how things are going and also to inspect a new (improved) service on the old Midland Main Line where investment by the Government via Network Rail has seen the line North from Bedford to Corby electrified. East Midlands Railway has gained a fleet of Siemens built Class 360s displaced from Greater Anglia to run the service.

But first, I’ve got to get there…

I’m currently on Northern’s 06:07 service from Sowerby Bridge as far as Manchester Victoria. Before the pandemic this would probably have been worked by one of the elderly 2-car ‘Pacer’ trains. Now they’re all retired we’ve been graced with a pair of 2-car Class 158s, which is clearly an improvement. At this God-forsaken hour of the day I’d hardly expect to it be crowded at the best of times, but these are hardly the best of times. We’re slowly picking up passengers as we go but right now (having just left Smithy Bridge) there’s only seven of us in the front vehicle. Still, that’s an improvement on this time last year when you’d have been lucky to have that many on the entire train!

I’ll be running a rolling blog throughout the day, so feel free to keep popping in to see my progress…

06:41.

As usual, we picked up a significant number of people at Rochdale, one of the busiest stations on the line. We’ve almost doubled our complement which is good to see. I’ll be interested to see what this weeks Department of Transport figures are for passenger loadings when they come out. I suspect that by the end of the week tere’s going to be a significant increase, but time will tell.

08:10.

Today’s stroll across Manchester was a real contrast to the same journey last Thursday. The increase in people who’re out and about was marked. Seeing folks sat inside coffee shops was a very noticeable change, as were busy trams. At Piccadilly station the mezzanine floor has reopened although only a few of the shops and cafes located there have doon the same. Even so, it’s a welcome sign that life’s returning. Many of the shop staff will be travelling to work by train, so there’s a knock-on effect.

I’m currently sat on the 07:55 Avanti service to Euston, which is still very quiet. Mind you, this one goes via Crewe and stops at Litchfield and Tamworth, plus there’s another (faster) direct service leaving Piccadilly just 10 minutes later, so that’s perhaps unsurprising.

08:25.

Oh, Joy! Signal failure at Stockport! We sat on the viaduct outside the station for 14 minutes before being allowed in to the station. After picking up a brace of schoolkids who’re on their way to Wilmslow we crawled out of the station to make our way (in fits and starts) South. We’re now approaching Cheadle Hulme 19 minutes late.

08:40.

We’ve departed Wilmslow in the the pouring rain 25 minutes late. The Train Manager’s come on the PA to announce that the problems were twofold, overhead line issues and a broken down train. This has left us running behind a local stopping service which has slowed us down even more. Ho hum!

09:10.

Thankfully, it seems the rain Gods only have a thing for Wilmslow, almost as soon as we left the skies lifted to become dappled with clouds and blue skies for the rest of the trip as far as Crewe where we picked up a few more travellers. The junctions a real mix of ‘railways through the ages’ with vintage stock and locomotives stabled at the old diesel depot (now LSL) whilst at the Arriva traincare depot stood one of the brand new electric trains for West Midlands services. Now, my train’s speeding down the West Coast at full throttle, hoping to make up some minutes…

10:00.

All station calls completed we’re now racing towards Euston at full tilt – literally! We’re making up the minutes as we go, having clawed back 9 so far. The weather’s brightened up somewhat and the sun’s trying to muscle its way through clouds that are retreating to greater heights. Either way, the weather in London can’t be as dank and dismal as last week, not that it really matters as I won’t be in the capital for long.

17:45.

Sorry for the attack of ‘bloggus intteruptus’ there. I’ve been constantly on the move and haven’t had more than 10 mins to compose my thoughts but I’ll start to catch up with myself now.

I didn’t hang around on arrival at Euston. The weather was as consistent as Boris Johnson so I made my way to St Pancras in the hope I’d get some decent pictures somewhere along the Midland Main Line if I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. My first trip was aboard one of East Midlands Railways newly acquired class 360s. After 20 years in service on Anglia they’re in need of an internal refurbishment. One was planned but has been delayed by Covid. Even so, they make a refreshing change from heading North under diesel power with a biglump of an engine below the passenger saloon. Being electric they’re rather nippy and we reacked Luton without much ado. My arrival coincided with a thunderstorm which made life ‘interesting’ to say the least. Bedford was balmier. I actually got to use summertime settings on my camera! Wellingborough was a highlight as we had some great changes in lighting conditions over a station that’s been substantially rebuilt. Not only has it regained its fourth platform, there also a new footbridge with lifts where stone cladding’s been added to make it blend in with the original Midland Railway building. Talking of original buildings – the time-warp goods shed had had a make-over. The rail access has been converted into a walkway to solve the issue of the narrow platform whilst the old cranes and goods deck have been walled-off in glass to be used as a museum at a later date. Here’s how much things have changed. The first of the Class, 360101 calls at the re-instated and rebuilt platform four at Wellingborough with a service to London St Pancras.

The Midland Main Line’s starting to look very different from the route it has been for decades. Electrification North of Bedford, reinstating four-tracking, re-aligned and rebuilt stations, there’s been quite a shopping list. Then there’s a ‘double-take’ on the train fleets. The old High-Speed Trains (HSTs) were retired last week. In their place has appeared two ‘cast-off’ fleets. The electric Class 360s from Anglia and the diesel Class 180s which have moved between First Great Western, Hull Trains and have now pitched up with EMR. Here’s 180109 powering through Luton with a service from Nottingham to London St Pancras.

Having sampled the new services, enhanced timetable and expanded stations I have to admit to being impressed. I’ll add more detail tomorrow (including a look at Wellingborough and Kettering station improvements. It’s early days yet and Covid’s still an issue but having half-hourly trains to Corby is excellent – especially as they’re electric. The 360s are good trains and they’ll be even better after refurbishment. The enhanced long-distance services to Sheffield should prove to be a winner too – even more so when EMR get their new fleet of bi-mode trains. After being a ‘cinderella’ operation for years since the ‘Meridians’ were introduced, times are certainly changing in the East Midlands. Now, if only the Dept of Transport and politicians can be persuaded to electrify all the way to Nottingham and Sheffield…

The end of the line for electric services. 360102 at Corby, ready to return to London. These trains now run every 30 minutes.

21:45.

I’ve jumped forward in time again as I’m now on the last leg home. I took my leave of the old Midland via Sheffield and the Hope Valley line to get back to Manchester. A stroll across the city saw me back at Victoria to catch a train back to Halifax. The Class 195/0 I’m on is busy – a reflection of the fact that lockdown’s easing. Many (but by no means all) of the trains I’ve travelled on displayed an increase in loadings compared to last week, but there’s still a long way to go before normality is established.

I’ll be out and about again tomorrow only closer to home as Northern finally have the bi-mode Class 769s in squadron service on the route from Alderley Edge to Southport. They’re three years late, but better late then never! Watch this space…

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/

Thank you!

16th May picture of the day…

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There’s no long blog from me today. It’s Sunday and I’ve been busy having quality time with Dawn. The ‘orrible weather we’ve been having these past few days finally broke so the pair of us decided to ditch the plans we’d had for working at home and went out for a long walk along the Rochdale Canal towards Luddenden instead. We had a lovely stroll watching life returning to the trees as well as the canal. There’s an explosion of greenery right now as the woodland wakes up for summer. That said – it’s not all green – the woods along the canal and by our home are carpeted in bluebells! The wildlife is making the most of it too with ducklings busy making frantic zig-zagging convoys on the canal, accompanied by their (sometimes indifferent) parents. Boaters have also returned. We passed several narrowboats making their way to Sowerby Bridge although the town itself was surprisingly quiet as several pubs with outdoor seating remained closed – on a Sunday, normally one of the busiest days of the week. Maybe they’re busy getting ready for the relaxation of the rules on Monday? Who knows…

All in all, it was a lovely interlude. Now we’re back at home. Dawn’s busy cooking a curry for tonight and the smells coming from the kitchen are wonderful. I’ve been occupied mounting a load more slides to be scanned later in the week and getting ready for another foray to the South tomorrow. The new national rail timetable started today but tomorrow is the first weekday. Many trains that were knocked out of the timetable due to Covid have been reinstated as passenger numbers are growing again. Plus, there’s some new services too. East Midlands Railway have started their new electric train service from London – Corby today, so I’m going to sample it tomorrow. This means another early start as I have other things to check out as well. I’m expecting a long and busy day. I’ll be running a rolling blog as I see how services are faring and what day brings.

In the meantime, here’s todays picture. During my travels over the decades I’ve come across many strange sights and incongruous stuff that makes you do a double-take, think ‘what the f**k?’ – or just burst out laughing. Here’s one such sight. My last picture was from the amazing Mentawai islands and their incredible inhabitants who lived a life so removed from modern society and the present day. On our return to the modern world we were travelling downriver in canoes to get to the sea, ready to catch a ship back to Sumatra when I spotted this – a TV aerial atop a palm tree in the jungle! God knows how they were generating the power to run a television back in 1992 – or how they managed to get the thing up there! Mind you, I also wonder what the picture must be like when the tree sways in a high wind!

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/

Thank you!

15th May picture of the day…

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Is this really May because you could have fooled me. The weather’s been bloody awful. On Thursday I was freezing my tits off in London whilst dodging the rain. Since I’ve been back in West Yorkshire we’ve seen nothing but rain, OK, the mercury has risen a smidgeon, but seriously? The pair of us would have loved to have gone for a long walk today but with visibility down to a few hundred metres and the rain being constant you feel severely disinclined to venture out and concentrate on other things instead – which is what we’ve done after enjoying a lazy morning. There’s one bright spot. Last Saturday I spent an abortive night waiting for a Pacer train to be unloaded by crane in Huddersfield. There’d been a possibility it would be re-arranged for tonight but that’s not happening, so I’m not in for another soaking and long walk home as the jobs been postponed until June. Instead I’ll be able to have a lovely evening with Dawn and a sensible start tomorrow in order to crack on with some projects at home ready for a new week ahead.

My recent flurry of slide scanning has resulted in over 120 new pictures appearing in my 1991-92 travel gallery. The series has now moved on from Sumatra to Bali which is a little frustrating because it makes me realise what I’m missing – which is about a month’s worth of pictures. Let me explain…

When I returned to London from my trip at the end of 1992 I had 1000s of slides which were unmounted. I’d had many films developed as I’d travelled and posted the pictures back to the UK. Partly because it wasn’t worth the risk of carrying them with me and the possibility of them being stolen but also because of the amount of space they’d have taken in my rucsac. Sadly, some of them got damaged in transit and I’d kept them between sheets of paper in my flat in London which seemed like a great idea at the time – until (inadvertently) I threw the paper away, not realising what it contained. The frustrating thing now – 30 years later – is that I’m starting to remember some of those pictures, and there were some beautiful and unique shots amongst them. But, c’est la vie and all that…

I may have lost some images, but some of the ones I didn’t are still special. The memories they evoke will always stay with me, like the one that I’ve chosen as picture of the day…

I took this shot of a Indian tribal healer ready to go hunting on the island of Siberut in the Mentawai Islands on the 18th June 1992.

How I ended up here and what happened whilst I was is a long, long story that deserves a full blog of its own to do the trip justice. Whilst I’d been in Sumatra I’d heard from some of the more adventurous travellers about the chance to go jungle trekking on Siberut, one of the Mentawai islands off the West coast of Sumatra. I’d also heard about the importance of getting the right guide (one who spoke the local language) as you would end up relying on the hospitality of people like this as it would be their homes you’d be staying in. It really was the most amazing experience but I was lucky. Not only did we have an excellent guide (Joni) and team of helpers, the group I went with jelled very well. We were a mix of Brits, Aussies and Scandinavians from a range of ages but that was no problem. OK, in a longer blog I’ll explain why someone was nicknamed ‘Rambo’ and another the ‘Wingeing Pom’ (not me I hasten to add!). Groups dynamics can make or break experiences like this and they’re often the luck of the draw as you never know who you’ll be trekking with and as a solo traveller that’s really important. I once went camel trekking in India with a small (but mixed) group and had a fantastic experience. When I got back I met a lovely young German girl who’d gone on a similar trip where she found herself alone with five Israeli’s. You can perhaps guess how that went. Anyway, for now I’ll leave you with this image. There’s plenty more in the gallery I mentioned earlier. Please feel free to take a look.

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/

Thank you!

Rolling blog: The great escape…

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06:30.

I’m escaping the confines of the Calder Valley today to head back to my old home (London town) for the first time this year. The country is slowly opening up again after so long in slumber due to the pandemic and I’m looking forward to being able to stretch my legs once again and catch up with both people and events. Today’s a beginning.

Apart from the unconscionably early start I really enjoyed the stroll into Halifax to catch the train. Despite the amazing mixture of weather we’ve been having the temperature’s slowly rising bringing far less chilly mornings than we’ve been used to. Admittedly, Halifax is still quiet at the moment.

I was one of only four people waiting for the 06:17 to Chester to arrive but I’ve no doubt that picture will soon change. The three car class 195 that arrived to take us West wasn’t much busier either. Still, it’s been a good journey so far, the Calder valley’s starting to bloom as the trees develop their summer finery whilst early morning mist clings to the hills, making me realise why I’ve always been attracted to this part of the world.

I’ll be blogging throughout the day, so stay with me to see what happens. I’m travelling down to London via the West Coast Main Line (WCML) due to ‘events’ with a certain train builder’s products which will allow me to pass through many old haunts en-route….

06:55.

Having called at Todmorden and Rochdale my trains begun to fill up with early morning workers on their way to Manchester. There’s a mix between folks wearing suits and those in steel toe-caps but it’s far too early for leisure travellers. Whilst the railway may still be quiet I caught a glimpse of the M62 as we passed Castleton and the motorway is chokka. It’s not that people aren’t travelling, it’s what mode they’re taking…

08:20.

Manchester was pretty quiet when I arrived. Victoria station wasn’t exactly a hive of activity and my walk across the city centre was hassle-free. Unusually, the vagrant quotient around Piccadilly Gardens was the lowest I’ve seen for some time although I’ve no idea why. Some other things were noticeable by their absence too – big name department stores like Debenhams. It’s quite eerie to see their huge building on Market street empty. What impact the absence of some famous high-street names will have on city-centres is yet to be seen. It’s sometimes easy to forget that there’s still 5 million people on furlough. When they return to work the effect on city centres should be rather interesting…

Manchester Piccadilly has changed since my last visit. The one-way system is much more regimented now and reinforced with barriers. The mezzanine floor remains closed so it’s not as easy to get photos of the concourse. Mind you, a few platforms were empty too, reflecting the lack of hustle and bustle. I was here to catch the 08:05 Avanti West Coast service South. The coach I’m in contains half a dozen people. We’re about to call at Macclesfield, so I’ll be curious to see if any more join us there…

09:00.

After calling at Macclesfield and Stoke our carriage has gained three more people, but that’s all so I’m looking forward to a hassle free journey South. The weather’s dry but cloudy with little definition in the sky – hardly conducive to photography but I’m hoping it’ll pick up when I get further South. Either way it’s great to be back on a Pendolino again. I’d forgotten how well they ride and the terrific performance as they accelerate. Oh, and let’s not forget the tilt!

Having joined the main line at Colwich Junction we’re now cruising past the old power station at Rugeley at 115mph although you’d never know from the behaviour of the train. I only know because I’ve an app on my phone that measures these things! The power station’s a sad sight nowadays. The turbine hall and chimney’s disappeared, as have the coal trains that used to supply it with fuel. All that remains are the four tall cooling towers although – as the site is being cleared for further use I can’t see them standing for much longer.

09:50.

We’ve just pulled away from Milton Keynes where dozens of people were waiting to catch this train. We arrived well ahead of time and sat for 8 minutes waiting for our scheduled departure time. I’d toyed with the idea of changing trains here but the weather’s deteriorated. Now we’ve got a steady drumbeat of rain hitting the train so I’ve decided to stay put in the hope things will be better in the capital.

10:12.

We’ve just passed through Watford Junction, a place where I spent many a bank holiday working on the Network Rail rebuilding and relaying work in 2015. Sadly, the sky’s now as black as Hades so I’ve no idea what to expect when I arrive.

11:27.

I’m now wandering around Euston in the rain. Something’s missing here, but I can’t quite put my finger on it…

22:00.

I’m back! Sorry for the gap in the blog, that was because I was having too good a time doing something we’ve not been able to do for ages – meet up with a few friends. Oh, that and the fact we can only do that outdoors and the weather’s bleedin’ freezing! Considering this is mid-May the weather’s anything but spring-like.

London was cold, wet and hardly ideal for getting pictures, although I did manage a few around Euston, documenting how much the area’s changing thanks to the HS2 rail development. Afterwards the day became social as I met up with some old friends for the first time for ages and the four of us caught one of the last traditional High-Speed Trains from St Pancras North (just for old times sake). There was a real feeling of deja vu about the event as the train was busy with railway enthusiasts. Hang on a minute? Weren’t railway enthusiasts condemning these trains when they were first introduced? Oh yes! In those days the HSTs were replacing many locomotive-hauled services so loved by enthusiasts, so the HST’s were labelled ‘plastic’ trains or denigrated as ‘trams’. Now they’re talked about with nostalgia. Talk about the wheel coming full circle!

The four of us travelled up to Nottingham where we had time for a quick pint before splitting up. Two returned to London whilst Merv and I continued North towards home. The weather didn’t get any warmer but at least we swapped rain for watery sunshine! Having bid adieu to Merv in Sheffield I’m on the final leg home from Leeds to Halifax, having had a thoroughly enjoyable day out. We all agreed that being able to meet up with friends in the flesh, enjoy a few beers and plot future adventures has been good for the soul.