Rolling blog. 3 peaks by Rail, day 3.

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05:15.

Good morning folks. We’ve made it up to Scotland without further incident, although we are now running 72 minutes late, which will affect the amount of time teams have to climb Ben Nevis. Contingency plans are in hand to have any stragglers bussed to Crianlarich where they can rejoin the train as we head South.

Breakfast of tea, coffee and porridge was served around 04:15. Right now the train’s a hive of activity as people have a was and brush up (as much as you can on a train with no showers!) Visit one of the two physiotherapists we have on board offering massages and medical care, or otherwise prepare for climbing Ben Nevis.

Superfast oats, superfast service…

We’re expecting to arrive at Fort William in the next 15 mins. Once the teams are off the train will be taken to the sidings to be tanked, serviced and cleaned. For once, I’ll be staying with the train and myself and some of the operations team will be meeting the climbers when they cross the finish line.

07:45.

The stock from the 3Peaks train is now sat in the yard and some of the crew are enjoying 40 winks before we head off into Fort William. On an adjacent road is this beastie, one of two which are in steam, ready for working the ‘Jacobite’ service from Fort William to Mallaig.

16:00.

Time for an update now that we’re on our way home. The late arrival in Fort William did have an impact on people climbing Ben Nevis. The new event management team from Global Adventure Challenges streamlined the process of getting everyone on the mountain safely, which made up some time, but there had to be a cut-off time that meant if you hadn’t reached the summit by a certain time you had to turn back from wherever you’d reached in order to make it back down in time to catch the train. Delaying our departure would have too many knock-on effects with pathing and connections. Despite this 90 people summited, far more than we’d hoped for. Even so, not everybody made it off the mountain in time. Three people were too late to get the bus to connect with the train so plan B was enacted. They were put on a fast coach with a Global Adventure Challenges member and ferried to Crianlarich where they rejoined us.

Rolling blog. 3 Peaks by rail – day 2.

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03.55.

Morning folks. The teams are on their way down from Snowdon and en-route to Bangor whilst the train is on its way from Holyhead where it was stabled overnight. We’re due in at 04:20 and the coaches carrying the teams should arrive shortly afterwards.

We’ve heard from staff with the teams that fog was a real issue on Snowdon and that’s delayed some of the climbers. We’re hoping to delay the trains departure from Bangor in order to ensure we can collect everyone. The problem is we’re occupying the only Westbound platform. We’re due to leave at 04:38 and the first service train from Holyhead is due to arrive at 04:55. To add to the fun, it’s started raining!

05:10.

Due to the wet and slippy conditions on Snowdon the coaches bringing everyone back from were late and there were a few anxious moments as we waited and clock-watched. The first arrived, then there was a gap before the other three turned up. A rapid unloading ensued with volunteers shepherding the tired walkers onto the train as quickly as possible. Even so, we left 9 minutes late but the main thing was we didn’t get in the way of the service train. Now we’re en-route to Scafell.

Walkers arrive back at Bangor in typical Snowdonia weather!
Time to sleep before the next challenge.
Whilst the walkers sleep, the onboard crew are busy. One group are busy making sandwiches for the packed lunches people will take with them on to Scafell.
Another team are assembling the packed lunches, adding fruit and other goodies to go with the sandwiches.

06:00.

It’s time for some sleep as I’ll be joining the walkers climbing Scafell later today…

08:00. I managed an hours sleep and now everyone’s up and being fed and watered. The bacon roll delivery was especially well received.

Sadly, the weather’s not the best we’ve ever had. There’s low mist and cloud, with rain forecast.

09:00.

We’re on lil’ Ratty..

22:00.

Sorry for the gap in blogging but the area around Wasdale and Scafell is a notorious phone blackspot. One of our number discovered that you could only get phone reception if you stood on a metal cattle-grid!

Today’s been both amazing and frustrating at the same time. Unlike previous years it wasn’t possible for me to get ahead of the teams ascending Scafell in order to get pictures of them doing so. Instead I joined the others from the Railway Children to walk the 8 miles across country from Dalegarth to the start of the climb up Scafell. It was an enjoyable walk despite the misty rain we encountered at the top and the boggy conditions underfoot.

The vast majority of teams did brilliantly on Scafell and the minibus and coach operation that got us back to Ravenglass worked really well (I’ll elaborate later when I’ve downloaded the pictures). Our evening meal was served by the cafe on the narrow gauge railway station. They served a humongous Baked potato and Chilli combo that would’ve filled almost any walker.

Sadly, it was after that things started to go a bit ”Pete Tong’. We were informed that the lead Class 37 on our train had failed at Barrow due to a defective starter motor. This meant shunting the train to detach is. The delays this (and another incident) incurred meant that our 19:30 departure became a 20:40 departure. As all the walkers were in the two pubs the first announcement was received with cheers!

Now we’re on our way to Fort William with some real pressures on our timetable. We have two fixed times, the amont it takes to climb and descend from Ben Nevis and the time our train has to leave Fort William to make our connections and get everyone home.

But, right now the most impoertant thing is – sleep. I’ll blog more about our adventures in the morning

Rolling blog. A game of two halves…

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09:00.

I’m enjoying a slower start to today than the past couple in order to get some sleep in the bank as I’m going to need it over the next few days. I had a lie-in until 07:00 today – luxury! Now I’m enjoying topping up my caffeine levels whilst repacking all the kit need for for Infrarail plus all the stuff I’ve brought with me for the next few days volunteering for the Railway Children and their epic ‘3 Peaks by Rail’ challenge which starts this evening. But first, I’m heading back the NEC and Infrarail for a last session of photography. Feel free to keep popping back during the day to see how things unfold…

11:15.

It’s much quieter here at Infrarail today. The Seminars all finish before lunch so I’m planning to make a break for it by then.

13:30.

Job done! The final speakers have finished and all the pictures are ‘in the can’ as it were. The irony? I’ve spent the best part of two and a half days stuck indoors whilst the sun’s been beating down on us and the place has been red-hot. As soon as I pack up and leave to get the train to Crewe the heavens have opened and it’s raining cats and dogs!

Still, here’s a couple of pictures from Infrarail taken just before I left…

I’ll try and catch up with some blogging on my way up to Crewe and fill out some more details of the final day of Infrarail.

15:00.

I’ve finally left Birmingham to make my way (in fits and starts) to Crewe to join the rest of the Railway Children volunteers, staff and entrants to this years 3 Peaks by rail. Thankfully, the torrential rain we had earlier has passed. Now the skies are a multitude of shades of grey with the odd snatch of blue. It’s also very humid. I must admit it was great to be back at Infrarail even if it was hard work. Covering three seminar theatres spread over two halls plus the traipsing around after politicians and VIPs certainly kept me fit! Even so, seeing so many familiar faces again after such a long gap made it all worthwhile. Then there’s the new contacts and offers of work which you can only get face to face. Zoom and the interweb will never be a substitute for that.

15:35.

After a brief stop at Wolverhampton to change trains and grab a couple of pictures I’m on the move again, this time on another West Midlands Class 350. It’s hard to keep track of this fleet as not only do they have three sub-classes, they’re also a mix of refurbished and refurbished sets. The first train had tables and power sockets, this one (350235) doesn’t. Outside there’s some impressively moody and thunderous looking skies which could make for some great pictures if only I was in the right place!

20:00.

We’re on our way! Everyone came together in Crewe without any major difficulties. The teams assembled, registered and received their briefings, the volunteers stocked up the train (a job and a half) and then – we were off. Here’s everyone ready and raring to go.

For the enthusiasts out there, the train’s made up of LSL Mk3 coaches and triple headed by two Class 37s and a Class 47.

21:20.

We’ve just left Llandudno Junction after a 50 minute layover which gave the on-board team the chance to serve everyone with a hot meal. Now we’re heading for Bangor where the walkers will transfer to coaches for the trip to the base of Snowdon.

22:10.

We’ve deposited the teams, the guides and some RC staff and volunteers at Bangor where they’re being bussed to the base of Snowdon. Before they left they were provided with plenty of fresh fruit and other snacks to makes sure they weren’t short of energy.

Meanwhile, the train and the onboard crew are heading to Holyhead where the train will be serviced overnight and prepared for picking up the walkers when it returns to Bangor at 04:21.

23:15.

Whilst the teams climb Snowdon the train and its crew are at Holyhead where they’ve been busy unpacking and storing all the food and drink that was loaded aboard at Crewe. Meanwhile, chef Nick Hebborn and Alison are rustling up a meal of sausage stew on a bed of rice for them in one of the buffet cars. We don’t have a kitchen car this year, so facilities are limited.

Rolling blog. Infrarail day 2…

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07:45.

Suitably rested after a good night’s sleep here in Birmingham I’m ready for day 2 of Infrarail. As there’s not so many keynote speakers today the pace should be a little more relaxed, which will give me time to blog through the event and also get to listen to some of the seminars. One I’m particularly interested in is a bit niche (hey, I’m at a rail event, isn’t it all ‘niche’?) as it’s about composite masts for greener electrification projects, given by Noel Dolphin of Furrer+Frey. The railways have picked up the ‘green’ ball and are running with it. Already the greenest form of land travel, rail is determined to stay that way, so is constantly looking at ways of doing so. Of course, electrification’s a big part of that and it’s the area where the UK (thanks to Government policies) lags way behind Europe. We have the lowest electrified route miles, so anything that will help keep costs down and aid decarbonisation is of value.

Right, I’d better finish packing my kit and head off to the NEC. I’ll update this blog en-route…

08:30.

Much as I like Birmingham I have to admit the walk from my hotel to the station was rather depressin due to the sheer amount of rubbish and litter I encountered en-route. The area by the car parks adjacent to the O2 arena is an utter shit-tip. Presumably a lot of it is discarded by people queuing to get into the venue like the ones I passed last night. Civic pride seems to be a thing of the past.

I’m now on Avanti West Coast’s 08:30 to Euston which will take me back to the NEC. New St station was busy, but it’s clear the recovery us still in progress. My train’s busy but there was no problem finding a seat in the rear of the set.

As we pulled out of Birmingham we passed the huge HS2 construction site at Curzon St, the site of the line’s cuty terminus. Work’s really progressed since my last visit so if I have time when I finish today I’ll pop by to get a few shots. Besides, the weather’s far too good to stay cooped up inside for longer than I have to!

13:45.

I’ve finally had chance to stop and sit down for five minutes and blog. So much for thinking today would be quiet, Infrarail’s been far busier today than yesterday. There’s a lot more visitors so I’m glad I arrived early and gad chance to check out some of the stands before they became busy. There’s some interesting stuff to be seen. I could do with one of these for a start. It’s an exoskeleton that’s designed to take the strain off older workers! Sadly, it won’t work with the camera bag…

21:30.

The end of another busy day, far busier than I expected but then not only were the crowds greater but I ended up covering three separate seminar stands. Not that I’m complaining as I got to hear some really interesting discussions as well as amass a huge amount of library shots and network with lots of people that I haven’t seen for ages. I’m not going to blog at length about the day, instead I’ll add a few more pictures and hope that tomorrow I can pause for breath long enough to give an overview of the show. What was great about the end of day 2 was the fact their were two drinks receptions. One on the RailBusinessDaily stand which promoted the activities of the Railway Children charity and another on the Alstom stand. Both allowed us to talk about more than just the day jobs and relax a bit more.

Network Rail allowed a lot of apprentices to attend the event. Here’s on of a cohort competing to see just how much weight (and bottles of water) he can balance on the sandcastle he’s made. A fun game with a serious message…

One of today’s important guests and keynote speaker was Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi MP, the Shadow Transport Minister, who spent a lot of time afterwards touring the event and talking to companies involved in the railway supply chain. Here he is delivering his keynote address.

I’ll try and add a few more pictures tomorrow if I get a break at the event. That said, I have to leave just after lunchtime in order to make my way to Crewe to join the rest of the volunteers working the Railway Children’s ‘3 Peaks by Rail’ marathon fundraiser. No doubt I’ll be blogging from the trip as long as the phone reception holds. If not, you’ll be able to read all about it in some rail publications soon….

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 appreciate all the help that we can get to aid us in bouncing back from lockdowns. 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 journey begins…

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06:20.

I left home this morning with mixed feelings as I’ve had to leave Dawn alone in an empty house without Jet for company and cuddles. But there’s work to do and bills to pay…

So here I am on Northern’s 06:04 from Sowerby Bridge to Wigan. Despite it being such an early train there’s half a dozen of us early birds in the front vehicle of this 3-car class 158. I wasn’t the only one catching it from Sowerby either, five of us did, which is a good indicator of the way rail passenger numbers are recovering post-pandemic.

The weather’s taken a turn for the better, bringing high temperatures and (this morning) heavy mist dominating the valley as we head West.

I’m heading for Birmingham and the NEC as I’m working at the combined Infrarail/Railtex trade fair – the first time it’s been held since 2019 as the pandemic wiped out all these events in 2020. I’m looking forward to the chance to catch up with friends and colleagues over the next few days. I’ve a busy schedule but should still have time for some fun.

06:32.

We’ve crossed over the border to Lancashire but the mist that confined the Calder Valley has followed me over the Pennines although it’s not as thick here. It certainly provides an ethereal backdrop as we chug our way towards Manchester.

06:40.

We’ve just left Rochdale which has provided plenty of passengers heading into Manchester to start a day’s work. We also lost a few as a handful of Royal Mail workers in their distinctive red jackets (and obligatory shorts!) arrived in the town.

07:45.

Well, that’s my stress levels well up! My train arrived at East Jn, just outside Victoria station 3 minutes early, then sat waiting for a platform. And waited, and waited – and waited. I had 32 mins to make my connection with the 07:27 from Piccadilly, which should have been planty of time for a leisurely stroll across the city, suitcase in tow. The minutes kept ticking and we went nowhere. Finally when a pltform cleared we were allowed in – at 07:04. Great, 23 minutes to get out of Victoria dash across town and onto a train at Piccadilly. If not, my first job of the day (photographing the HS2 Minister Andrew Stephenson) was up the swannee. As I left Victoria a clock showed 07:08. Despite pulling a suitcase I set a near personal best and arrived at Piccadilly at 07:23. A hot and sweaty mess admittedly, but I made it!

I’m now cooling down in the air-conditioned luxury (“luxury”? Ed) of a Cross-Country Voyager bound for Bournemouth…

08:33

We’re now South of Stafford. I’ve regained my breath and equilibrium, cooled down and am ready for the whatever the rest of the day holds. This 9 car Voyager’s full of reservations and people but I managed to find an available seat in the front car. God knows how busy these services will be when they revert to the normal timetable and become single units again! Today’s going to be a hot one, there’s wall to wall sunshine outside although the mist persists even here in Staffordshire. I suspect it’s going to be rather hot in the NEC today, but we’ll see…

21:45.

Apologies for the lack of regular updates throughout the day but I was run off my feet! This year Infrarail/Railtex was held in halls away from the main entrance, adding another 10 minutes to get there from International station. Thankfully, the guys I was working with from Rail Business Daily had everything in hand so even though we had to go through extra layers of checks due to Covid I had plenty of time to spend with the HS2 Minister Andrew Stephenson MP to get the shots we needed and then listen to his keynote address and Q&A session. Here he is addressing a busy arena.

Most of the rest of my day was spent ping-ponging between to discussion areas, capturing shots of the speakers. Needless to say, I’ve racked up a few miles today! Disappointingly, and despite the fact it’s the first time any of these events have been held since 2019, the numbers attending were lower than we’ve seen for a few years. It’s clear that it’s going to take a while for events like this to bounce back from Covid. Even so, it was obvious from the conversations I had with various people that everyone’s so happy to be back to being able to meet with friends and colleagues face to face again. I certainly felt that as I toured the show and bumped into people I’ve not seen since the first lockdown and I know I wasn’t the only one. Today was very much about the keynote speakers and the seminars. Tomorrow should be more relaxed, enabling me to get a greater variety of pictures and play around with the camera. It’s not that some of the seminars weren’t really interesting, but there was a feeling expressed at some that the biggest stumbling block to progress with the railways is getting financial decisions to be made in the corridors of power. This very much came across in the discussion about decarbonisation where the sentiment was ‘right, we’re preaching to the converted here. We all know what the problems and pitfalls are, we also know what the benefits are, how do we get the Treasury to be part of the solution, not part of the problem’? Answers on a postcard, please…

As Covid restricted some of the more social activities at the end of the day I drifted away earlier than normal as my job was done. Heading back into Birmingham I caught the same Cross-Country train that I’d come down on. In the time I’d been at the fair the sets had time to complete their trip to Bournemouth and back! Birmingham was sunny, hot and sweaty so after a quick pint in the Shakespeare pub by the station I headed for my hotel which is just behind the O2 arena. I’ve no idea who’s playing but by the time I’d changed and ventured out to get something to eat the queue of young people waiting to get in was easily over a quarter of a mile long! I steered well clear as two words formed in my mind, ‘Covid Hotspot’…

Right now I’m back in the cool of my hotel room editing pictures from today and checking my kit ready for day 2. It’s an early night for me after an 04:45 start this morning but I’m intending to make the most of the day tomorrow and blog more about the event and another evening in Birmingham. Stay tuned, but for now – it’s goodnight from me…

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 appreciate all the help that we can get to aid us in bouncing back from lockdowns. Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

6th September picture of the day…

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Please excuse the lack of blogs these past few days but to be frank, we’ve had one of the shittiest weekends ever and writing was the last thing I had time for.

Late last week we found out that a dear friend who had cancer only had a few weeks (or days) left to live. With the pair of us having been away in Surrey it hadn’t been possible to arrange to see them for one last time and the previous time we’d tried they’d been too ill. So, as soon as we returned we arranged to visit Tony at 11:00 on Saturday morning. But then the fates conspired.

Regular readers will know that I’ve often blogged about the trials and tribulations of having a venerable moggie. Jet, our beautiful boy, had reached the grand old age of 20 last month. Despite his advancing years, his deafness and his lack of teeth, he was still soldiering on and a loveable and affectionate as ever.

Then, in the early hours of Saturday morning, around 04:00, suddenly, and without any warning, he had a fit. He was sleeping on the bed with us at the time and the first warning we had was when he shot up (waking Dawn) and peed on the bed. Leaping off the bed he then went into spasms on the carpet. It was awful to watch, especially as we were so powerless. All we could do was hold him to stop him doing himself any damage.

As soon as we could we rang the vets to get an appointment and take Jet to be checked out, meaning we couldn’t make our 11:00 appointment to see Tony, it was an awful choice, but we knew Tony was in safe hands whilst the only hands Jet was in were ours. After an anxious hour at the vets they suggested that the fit may have been down to blood pressure as that was the only thing tests showed as unusual. Somewhat reassured we returned home, stressed and tired and readied to visit Tony. First, we had to complete Lateral Flow Tests which the nursing home (not unreasonably) insisted on people taking before visiting. By now it was around 13:00. Then we received a phone call from a mutual friend. Tony had passed away at 11:15…

We felt both upset and awful because we’d missed our chance to say goodbye, but what else could we have done? Our friend reassured us that we’d done the right thing, but even so, we felt pretty low. Our only consolation was that we could concentrate on Jet’s wellbeing and monitor him throughout the day, hoping that the problem really was his blood pressure. The tablets didn’t stop him having another fit later that day which was just as awful to experience as the first. And yet – he seemed to make a pretty good recovery, or so we thought (or maybe hoped). The pair of us discussed what to do with the vets and the advice was to monitor his wellbeing, give the tablets time to (hopefully) work and keep them informed.

Saturday night was awful, neither of us had got much sleep, we were both feeling low as it was and then Jet had another fit in the early hours. As was the pattern, he lost control of his bladder as he threshed around yowling in an awful way. It was so distressing to watch. Once again we held him, looked after him and vowed that we couldn’t keep this up, both for his sake and ours. We’d decided that if the fits hadn’t passed by Monday, medication or not, the kindest thing to do was to have him put to sleep. It’s an awful decision to have to make, but we couldn’t bear to see him suffering like this. He came around enough that we took the risk to have him on the bed one last time. He was a gorgeous and affectionate as ever, if a little dozy.

Put slightly more at our ease, we both rose and set about things we needed to do, leaving the boy dozing on his heated mat where he stayed for a couple of hours. Then, we heard the awful yowl that heralded yet another fit. Rushing upstairs we found him rigid and panting on the bedroom floor. It was at that point we both looked at each other and agreed that we couldn’t put off the inevitable any more. It was heartbreaking, but we couldn’t watch him suffer anymore, the fits were becoming too frequent and too severe. Poor Jet never really recovered from the final fit, he was so spacy when we got him to the vets and they knew what we’d requested, it was time to let the boy go. Despite Covid, the vets were brilliant, they let us both be with him as we went through the inevitable. We held him and stoked him as the vets administered the injection that would see him finally at peace. To say the pair of us were in bits is an understatement. I know people who don’t have pets will probably find this hard to understand, but they really do become part of your family, especially ones who are so loving and affectionate as Jet – and who’ve been with you so long. Dawn has had him since he was a kitten. He’s been part of my life for 12 years. They have a massive impact on you. He was 20, so you know he won’t live forever. You think you’re prepared. The reality – when it arrives- is rather different. Coming home to an empty house afterwards is really hard. They’re not around to greet you anymore. They never will be again. The emotions you go through are so difficult. But, they’re just a pet, right?

So, that’s why I’ve not been blogging these past few days.

I’ll talk more about our friend Tony another time when I have more time. Right now I’ve got to finish packing as I’m away all week at a trade fair and then helping the Railway Children charity on their ‘3 Peaks by Rail’ event. Expect more blogs soon…

In the meantime, here’s the picture of the day, which (of course) is of our gorgeous boy. Farewell Jet…

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, and vets bills), 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!

The Friends of Mytholmroyd station celebrate once more…

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Yesterday it was my pleasure to attend yet another celebration at Mytholmroyd, where the station friends and guests were unveiling a plaque celebrating the restoration of the 1871 station building winning a Railway Heritage Trust conservation award in December 2019. Sadly, the Covid pandemic postponed any chance to celebrate the award or mount the plaque until this year. Ironically, the postponement meant that the plaque was unveiled this year, which is the 150th anniversary of the building’s construction. The present building replaced an original timber structure from when the line opened in 1847. Records show that the contract to construct the building was let by the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway in May 1870 to a “Mr Wilkinson, contractor of Mytholmroyd”. In June 1870 construction was suspended due to excavations causing part of the embankment under the Down line to subside. Work resumed at the end of September 1870 and the new building opened in December 1871*. You can find a full selection of pictures of the interior of the refurbished building in this blog. Here’s how the building looks from street level. Passengers on passing trains don’t appreciate the sheer size of the building as they only see the top floor.

Here’s a selection of pictures from yesterday’s unveiling.

The plaque revealed!
The participants from L-R. Craig Whittaker, MP for the Calder Valley. Geoff Mitchell (Friends of Mytholmroyd). Andy Savage, Railway Heritage Trust and RHA Judge. Sue Mitchell (Friends of Mytholmroyd). Chris Harris, Deputy Lord Lieutenant of West Yorkshire. Bob Freeth, Mayor of Hebden Royd Council. Theo Steel, Railway Heritage Trust.
The plaque.

Work will soon begin to outfit the interior of the building ready to accept its first tenants. No doubt when that happens I’ll be bringing you more updates!

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!

*Thanks to Michael Allen of Mytholmroyd for providing me with the historical information on the station construction

2nd September picture of the day…

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Apologies for the lack of a blog of any kind yesterday. This was due to the fact my normal mode of transportation (rail) was swapped for travelling back from Surrey to Yorkshire by road and trying to blog in a car isn’t the easiest thing in the world. Oh, there’s also the small fact that my wife was doing the driving and Dawn (not unreasonably) would have been less than impressed if I spent the journey tapping away at my phone!

In truth, we didn’t depart Surrey until late afternoon but we were both busy with work and chores before we left so time was at a premium. The journey’s just shy of 250 miles and takes over 5 hours with one stop. We left at 16:00 and weren’t sure what to expect departing at that time but we actually had a really clear run, even though we take the route avoiding the M25 and skirt the West side of Oxford instead. We arrived home just before 21:30 and spent the rest of the evening unpacking and settling in back at home, so blogging was the last thing on my mind.

Today’s been different, but equally busy. I visited the Friends of Mytholmroyd station today for a rather special event which I’ll blog about tomorrow. Needless to say, a good time was had by all and it was great to see some old friends and faces again. I’ve a very busy week ahead of me next week so I’ll be having a full day in the office tomorrow in preparation – as well as getting all of this weeks pictures onto my Zenfolio website. Today’s picture of the day is one of them.

London’s rail network is fascinating. Lines crisscross the capital – and each other. Here’s one such place where two very different systems cross in the open. I took this shot at North Acton on Tuesday whilst I was out looking at various HS2 construction sites. The timing was just right and as a Central line tube train pulled out of the station and headed towards the city a London Overground Train passed overhead.

You can find many more pictures from my travels on the London Underground by clicking on this link. All the pictures from my exploration of the High Speed 2 construction sites are here.

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 Surrey commuter…

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08:00

Today I become a Surrey commuter, taking the train into London for the day to visit a camera repairer and spend the day visiting various railway locations around my old home. Sadly, it’s a very grey start to the day ‘dahn sarf’ although the forecast for the capital looks more promising. As the extended bank-holiday weekend is over I’ll be interested to see how many people have returned to work and how busy the capital is without its usual summer overload of foreign tourists. Or are they starting to creep back? Whatever, it should be an interesting and enjoyable day. Keep popping back to see how it develops. Right now I’m packing my kit ready for a lift to the station. See you later…

08:45.

Dawn’s dropped me off at the station in time to catch my first train of the day, the 08:33 to Guildford. You used to have to change at Aldershot to get to Guildford, but nowadays there’s a direct service. Today it’s operated by 450007 a 4-car Siemens Desiro. The trains lightly loaded with just half a dozen in my car after leaving Aldershot. Not having any previous experience of the route at this time of day I don’t know if that’s good or bad.

The heavy grey clouds have now added drizzle to the entertainment outside my train window. My Scottish friends have a word for a day like this. Dreich.

09:30.

On arrival at Guildford I had just enough time to grab a couple of pictures before the next Waterloo service arrived. The 09:05 was worked by a pair of well loaded 5-car Class 444s. I maged to find a seat for the trip to Woking where I changed once more in order to catch a service stopping at Clapham junction. A minute late a brace of diesel powered Class 159s rolled in, so I joined the leading seat which contains a respectable number of passengers.

09:55.

I see the London Overground is back to normal already.

11:30.

My trip on the busy Overground took me to Shepherds Bush, one of the few areas of London I really don’t know very well as I never had much call to go here. That said, the area around the LOROL and Underground stations has undergone a massive redevelopment, so it’s hardly surprising I don’t recognise much! I was here to catch the Central Line out to one of its Western extremities. As an old East-ender I know the other side well, but I was shocked to see the state of the trains today. They’re filthy inside and out.

They’re kept free of litter but they really do need a deep clean and some TLC. My trip took me to the far end of the line at West Ruislip. I’d come here to get shots of the HS2 construction site which is next to the line and easily visible from the station overbridge, as you can aee from this picture. It’s rail connected so that when it’s fully operational material can leave/arrive by train.

Thankfully, by the time I arrived the miserable drizzle had lifted, allowing me to get the shots I wanted. Now I’m heading back into London to grab shots from a few more locations on the line.

15:00.

I’ve had a busy time. My next stop was to East Acton, where I wandered up to Wormwood Scrubs to see the work HS2 contractors are doing to divert some utilities. As usual, some local ‘greens’ are screaming blue murder about the “destruction” of the Scrubs. There’s even a squalid squatters, sorry “protest” camp on the site near the work that’s taking place. Needless to say, the reality of what’s happening is far more mundane. A trench is being dug from OldOak Common Lane N-E along the edge of the Common. The fencing is far wider than the trench itself! Here’s the compound on the main road. Not exactly ‘laying waste’, is it? I’ll do a different blog about the whole site another time.

Meanwhile, here’s what the rest of the Scrubs looks like. The trench works are to the left, at the end of this temporary access road. Looks very ‘destroyed’, doesn’t it?

Meanwhile, just the other side of the railway to Wormwood Scrubs is the site of the new Old Oak Common HS2 station where construction works recently started. The station will be built in a vast underground box. Here’s what it looks like today as work ramps up. This is going to be stopped by the handful of squatters on the Scrubs? Seriously?

Retracing my steps to White City it suddenly dawned on me when I last spent time around here and why – and they’re not fond memories. I used to come here regularly in 2004-05 because my sister was receiving treatment for breast cancer at the Hammersmith hospital. Having beaten the disease back in the early 1990s it returned again 10 years later. Two mastectomies and specialist treatment only slowed it down. Sometimes she’d come down from Southport to stay with us whilst she had the treatment, other times she’d come down for the day. As Ruth didn’t know London I’d be her guide and get her to the hospital by bus and tube. I was with her on her last visit when the Surgeon told her there was nothing more they could do, her condition was terminal and she needed to arrange a Hospice. She was devestated after fighting for so long. She had two young children and fought like a lioness to see them grow up. It was an awful experience trying to comfort her. What on earth can you say to someone in that situation? So, now I remember why I never visited Acton again afterwards.

17:30

Shrugging off those memories I doubled back to Clapham Junction and on to Vauxhall to deposite my poorly lens in the tender care of Fixation, a company I’ve been using since I turned professional. They’re exellent and always helped me in the past. Hopefully the damage isn’t too severe and can be repaired quickly. Having that mission over I made my way to Clapham Junction once more to get pictures of these old girls, which are living on borrowed time due to delays in getting their replacements working, drivers trained and the units in service. Until that happens, the old 1980s, BR built Class 455s will remain on the front line, forming the backbone of suburban services.

Here’s what will displace the Class 455s. One day. This was a new Bombardier Aventra in Clapham Junction yard this morning.

19:00

I’m now off the rails (as it were!) and back in Tilford getting ready for a meal out with Dawn and her Niece, Jessica. We’ll be eating in Farnham so I’ll be going off-grid for a couple of hours. When we get back I’ll finish off this blog with a few more pictures and impressions from the day.

22:00.

I’m back! We enjoyed a relaxed and really good meal at Cotes in Farnham. Jess had only recently returned from her first festival experience at Reading and loved it (well, apart from the toilets, obviously – a rite of passage for any first-time festival goer), now we’re back in Tilford and I have chance to bring this blog to and end with a few thoughts and a couple of pictures.

Thoughts? How busy the railways have become again in such a short time. Travelling on the London Overground today and you’d think Covid had never happened, but then the Overground sees few tourists, it a Londoners travel network. The Underground was quieter than it was pre-Covid, partly because of the lack of tourists, but also because not everyone’s returned to work. Even so, I believe the doomsayers have been proved wrong – and within a very short time.

Another thought – how massively construction of the new HS2 railway is ramping up. The construction sites are a hive of activity. I visited several today and passed many more. The levels of activity are through the roof now mobilisation is in full swing. I’m looking forward to visiting many more sites along HS2 Phase 1 over the next few months in order to get a fuller picture. All in all, it’s been a fascinating day. But tomorrow I really will be heading North again – albeit not for long. September is going to be a very interesting month…

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!

Well, that was a bummer…

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Today I’d expected to be making my merry way across the country by rail, leaving leafy Surrey to cross the capital and watch the world go by on the East Coast Main Line before arriving back at the Yorkshire tea plantations on the slopes of the Calder valley. Only things didn’t quite go to plan….

Last night I was editing some pictures, including a few I’d taken yesterday afternoon at Box Hill when I noticed something odd on the Surrey pics. On each shot the right hand side of the image was out of focus for about 25% of the frame. Odd, very odd. I’d only taken the camera body with just the 80-400mm lens attached to it so I immediately checked out my kit. That’s when I discovered that – somehow – the long lens body had become skewed on the ring that attached it to the camera body. To say my language became colourful (even profane) would be an understatement! If God existed there’d have been a lightning strike in Tilford last night!

At the beginning of September I’ve two jobs lasting several days running back to back, so I really need that lens – or a replacement for it. This left me with one choice. Stay another night in Surrey and head into London tomorrow to the camera servicing centre I’ve been using for the past 20 years. My big concern was what to do with our old moggie, Jet, who’s at home and been looked after by neighbours, plus Dawn’s mum and dad. Fortunately, they’ve rallied round and John and Norah have taken Jet on another holiday to their house in Huddersfield. He’s such an old boy we don’t want to leave him on his own too long, so this was the best solution. Now I’m free to extend my Surrey sojourn and come back with Dawn on Wednesday rather then her having to drive all the way solo. I also get to have the lens looked at and do some photographic projects around London and Surrey – albeit without a long lens, but that’ll force me to look at things in a different way – which isn’t always a bad thing…

This means my final blog of August will be filled with fun and games in London as I’ll have more time to visit locations I’d got in mind.

Although this blog hasn’t been billed as a picture of the day I’ll still include one – just to add a splash of colour to my scribbling. Here’s another of my recent slide scans from my Indian archives. I took this picture in Arambol, Goa, India in December 1993.

Every evening before sunset, after most of the Westerners had adjourned to the beachside bars and restaurant in this little fishing village to enjoy a sunset beer they’d be replaced by local children who’d arrive to play games, splash in the waves or just lark about. Often young lads like this would find whatever they could to use as a bat and stumps to enjoy a game of cricket. Sometimes you’d get bemused European boys like this one wondering just what was this strange game they were playing. It was always fun to watch. It’s odd to think that these young boys will now be men and it could well be their sons playing these same games on the beach in Arambol.

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!