The sunshine, that is. Yesterday’s glorious weather appears to have been a flash in the pan. Today dawned in the traditional pattern with low cloud and haze obscuring the view of the valley. Remarkably, considering the thunderous grey clouds that clung to the horizon like an invading army, we didn’t get any rain until just before dusk. Then, the heavens opened! I wouldn’t have minded so much if we hadn’t been out food shopping, so we got caught in the downpour. It’s remarkable just how wet you can get when you’re making a 100 metre dash with shopping bags!
Having got home neither of us have any intention of venturing out again. Instead, I’m happy in the kitchen, trying out a new curry recipe from Rick Stein’s Indian book. Right now the chicken’s cooking slowly and there’s a wonderful smell of cinnamon, star anise fenugreek and garlic permeating to house – with just that tang of chilli catching your nose and throat when I open the kitchen door.
Whilst Dawn was visiting friends this morning I’ve not been idle. I managed to get through editing all yesterdays pictures, so here’s a couple more samples. You can find the full collection on my Zenfolio website if you follow this link.
Here’s the changing face of the railways in the North. One of Trans-Pennine Express new ‘Nova’ 2 5-car bi-mode trains leaves Leeds bound for Liverpool Lime St. It’s passing one of the new CAF built 3-car diesel trains built for Northern. Despite what you hear about a lack of investment in trains in the North these two train orders come to over a billion pounds. Both reflect an increase in train lengths and the number of seats on offer, as well as free wifi, plug sockets and more.
Of course it’s not just TPE and Northern that have brought new trains to Yorkshire, so has LNER. their new ‘Azuma’ fleet has already taken over the majority of services From Leeds Harrogate, Skipton and Wakefield to London.
Sadly, looking at the weather forecast for the week I’m going to be lucky to find such good weather anywhere near to home. Even further afield is looking iffy, so I you may be treated to more old slide scans until the weather picks up.
Right, it’s time to eat. Whilst I’ve been scribbling this the chicken curry has cooked – and it’s looking good…
The new year’s got off to slow start. Not because of hangovers or anything like that but because it was lovely to be able to have a lie-in! The year also started with a beautifully clear, crisp sunny morning which made us decide we needed to go walking. Sadly, by the time we’d had breakfast and got ready mist and hazy cloud had rolled in from the South. It didn’t affect our walk but it was a little frustrating from my perspective I was looking forward to getting some pictures to kick off the year. In the end, this was the best I could get.
Our walk took us down into the valley floor before we climbed up the opposite side to head on to Norland Moor and before visiting the nearby Moorcock Inn for a drink and to chance to warm up for a while as despite the day being mild, the wind-chill up by the moor really makes a difference. Despite the pub only being open until six and its menu limited to selling their exotic range of bar snacks the place was really busy.
Once we’d torn ourselves away we rolled back downhill via Sowerby Bridge which was surprisingly quiet with most of the pubs and restaurants deserted, albeit it was only 5pm. I suspect many people were still at home in their dressing gowns and nursing an Alaka-Seltzer!
A power-walk back up the hill soon had us back at home, which is where we’ve stayed for the rest of the evening. Having walked a total of seven miles we’d earned our supper and polished off another slice of yesterday’s nut roast, roasted parsnips and potato’s with relish. As much as I love travelling, having quality time at home (especially in winter) is something to savour…
I’ve begun my migration South as Dawn and I, plus her parents, are going to be staying in Surrey over Christmas in order to be near her brother and his young family. But first I have a few things to do in London, including catching up with old friends.
Right now I’m en-route to Manchester aboard the 09:06 from Sowerby Bridge to Wigan Wallgate. Once upon a time you could have expected this service to have been worked by a Pacer. Today it’s been allocated a refurbished 2-car Class 158, number 901 – one of the batch bought by the West Yorkshire PTE back in the 1990s. There’s an odd mix internally as it’s fitted with the new seats that are in the Class 195s but it retains the old (battered) tables and there’s no USB sockets or wifi.
As we traverse the Pennines I’m noticing that a lot more of the 2-car Class 195s are in passenger service now. Before the timetable change they were quite rare. It’s a positive change for passengers and I’m looking forward to seeing the full fleet in service next year.
We’ve now crossed over the border ino Lancashire where the weather’s just as dull, wet and miserable as it was in the Calder Valley – but at least it’s mild!
This train’s an ‘all shacks’ stopper which is full and standing now it’s left Rochdale. There’s a mix of Christmas shoppers heading into the city and others like me who’re heading South for the holiday.
My train was late into Victoria as we played the usual game of sitting outside waiting for a through platform to become free. Oh, for the days before British Rail flogged off half the station to build an arena and demolished so many platforms!
I’m now taking my first trip on Avanti West Coast. There’s not a huge amount of difference at this stage in the game. The Pendolino’s look almost exactly the same internally apart from a few notices. The staff are their usual friendly and efficient selves, they just make slightly different announcements. The wifi screen’s changed, but beyond that…
I’m currently speeding through Warwickshire at a rate of knots past a very damp and flooded landscape. Everywhere I look I can see fields under water, whilst rivulets of rain cascade down the window, holding their own little races as they go. Inside the train it’s warm and cosy, leaving me feeling sorry for the sodden sheep I’ve just seen by the lineside. Right now we’re flying through Rugby, a town and station I know well having spent a lot of time here in the past – including a Xmas and Boxing Day trackside many years ago, working on the infamous Rugby blockade which was part of the West Coast upgrade!
We’ve just paralleled the M1 motorway, which is easy to see because it resembles a linear raincloud due to all the spray that’s being thrown up by the vehicles on it. I’m glad I’m on a train instead!
The rain’s finally abated as we speed past flooded fields around Ledburn and the location of the great train robbery, an event sanitised in popular culture but never forgotten by those members of the railway family because of what happened to the train’s driver, Jack Mills, which was always glossed over in the myths around the event and subsequent films.
We’ve just passed Wembley yard, where the presence of a Grand Central class 180 has completely thrown me!
I’ve had another busy day home-based, doing all sorts of different things, but as the weather has been freezing and the valley fog-bound for much of the day I’ve really not minded. That said, I would have liked to have ventured up to Scotland to say goodbye to yet another old BR train fleet that reached the end of the line today. Scotrail retired the last of the 16 Class 314 electric trains that have run around Strathclyde since 1979, giving the old girls quite a decent send-off too by all accounts. This blog looks back at their lives and times.
Instead of a Scottish sojourn I’ve been up to my neck in paperwork whilst waiting for various home deliveries. Dawn ordered something via Amazon which was fine as they emailed me with a 2-hour delivery slot between 8-10am and kept to it. I’d ordered some printer inks which were being delivered via Yodel, whom I’ve heard lots of bad things about. I wasn’t re-assured when I went to track my delivery via the link to the Yodel website this morning. I found that I was delivery number 73! My first thought was “Oh ‘kin hell – 73? In a day? I’ve no chance” Here’s a screen grab from 13:00
My pessimism was entirely misplaced. Their tracking system worked perfectly, as did the countdown allowing me to nip out and not stress about missing the delivery. Finally, just before 17:00 the chap rang the doorbell and I had time to commend him for getting through so many drops in a day. Our chat revealed he’d had a fun time with the weather as most of his drops had been up in the high Pennines and it was only now he was dropping down into the valley, so he’d battled through ice, rain and fog to get to me!
On another front, I have had time to look at some comments on social media friends have linked me in to, including this outstanding piece of hypocrisy from celebrity environmentalist Chris Packham, who tweeted this earlier today.
Hang on, isn’t this is the same man who’s organised a dishonest media campaign against building High Speed 2, the one chance we have to have the rail capacity we need to cope with modal shift from air and road to rail so as to cut transport Co2 emissions in order the tackle climate change? The very same! I’m no ‘celebrity environmentalist’ but I’ve never dreamed of taking an internal flight in the UK! I’ve always travelled by much more environmentally friendly rail – but then (unlike Packham) I’m not jet-setting around the world to lecture folks on how to be green. Packham’s statement begs a question. If this is his ‘last’ internal flight, how many has he taken before now? This seems like a classic example of ‘do as I say, not as I do’ and it shows why so many people are cynical about the ‘green’ movement. Mind you, Packham’s got form. I’ve already exposed his nonsense about Hs2 being the ‘biggest deforestation programme since WW1″ here.
Tomorrow I escape the Calder Valley for some time down South, so expect a rolling blog documenting the day, which might be interesting if the new timetables are providing the same ‘fun and games’ as they have been. Watch this space….
Today was the first day of the new winter timetable for the railways and a visit to my local station and a perusal of social media tells me it’s not gone well in a lot of places. Certainly not across Lancashire and Yorkshire where both Northern and Trans-Pennine express seem to have had a difficult day judging by the lists of cancellations, delays and pictures of overcrowded stations posted to Twitter. The industry’s not exactly covering itself in glory right now, despite there being so many good news stories.
The truth is, our rail network is trying to cope with massive increase in trains and passengers without the same growth in infrastructure to take them. Sure, there’s also other (human) problems like train-crew issues and training plus the technical problems of introducing new trains – and let’s not even talk about the mad 27 day strike on South-Western Railway!
However, the real problem is resilience. We’re trying to fit too many trains on a network with very little spare capacity and tight timetabling of both trains and crews which can easily lead to a ripple effect, especially at choke-points like Leeds and Manchester.
Understandably, passengers are getting pissed-off. They’re not interested in the causes, they just want a reliable service that’ll get them to work/home on time every day. It’s hardly too much to ask, but it is the biggest challenge facing the railways right now and I’m not sure the new timetables are going to help. At least the red-herring of rail renationalisation and fears of a complete political and managerial reorganisation of the rail industry has disappeared as a consequence of the election result.
On the plus side, more and more new trains are entering service across the network. LNER retired the last of the venerable diesel High-Speed Trains (HSTs) yesterday and Northern continue to make inroads into the BR built Pacer fleet, which is why I popped down to Sowerby Bridge station this morning. Three more Class 142 Pacers were working under their own power from Newton Heath Depot in Manchester to be stored at the old colliery sidings at Gascoigne Wood near Selby. Here they are on their way.
On Wednesday Scotrail finally dispense with yet another of the old BR built fleets, this time it’s the Class 314 EMUs which have worked around Strathclyde since 1979. I’ve looked back at their lives and times in this blog. As this graphic from the Rail Delivery Group shows, our trains are getting younger. Now all we’ve got to do is make them run on time…
There’s not much of a blog today, as after travelling over to Southport yesterday, Sunday’s been a much quieter day spent at home, pottering around and catching up on various chores whilst keeping one eye on the weather. We’ve had pretty much everything today. Rain (aplenty), sleet, hailstorms and high winds have all combined to keep us entertained. The one bright spot is that the weather’s been mild. In between the showers I managed to tidy up our front garden leaving it in a fit state to survive the winter, although I couldn’t tackle other areas as the cobbles and stonework’s slippy as hell at the moment after all the rain and the leaf fall. Still, there was plenty do inside the house, making it presentable in readiness for Dawn’s return from her weekend with friends in London.
This evening I’ve had time to edit a few pictures for my Zenfolio website, including this shot of the very first of the old BR built Class 142 ‘Pacers’ which was active West of Manchester yesterday.
Sights like this will very soon be a thing of the past.
Today started well. We had one of those beautiful sunrises where the sky lights up with an ethereal glow to bless you with some wonderful colours through wispy clouds, heralding the arrival of a new day. It lasted a scant matter of minutes before the light changed to more mundane hues. I managed to grab my camera just in time. Here’s the view from our bedroom window this morning as it was happening.
The day’s also been noticeably milder than of late, making it ideal walking weather. Sadly, that didn’t last long either and this afternoon another weather front moved in, bringing with it gusting winds and rain. Not that it’s mattered to me as I’ve been working from home, ploughing through paperwork and pictures whilst also planning the weekend. Dawn’s off to London to see friends this weekend, leaving me to my own devices, so I’m planning to catch up with some social obligations solo.
This evening we’re off to the Engine in Sowerby Bridge for our second visit in a week. This time it’s to celebrate my Father-in-Law’s 85th birthday, so expect a few food and other pictures to appear later! We’ll be ordering off the ordinary menu this time, rather than having one chosen for us as we did last weekend, which will allow me to illustrate some different dishes. John’s a coeliac and the Engine does a great job of catering for him – as you’ll see from the pictures…
We’re now at home and there’s lots of food pictures to add after yet another lovely night at the Engine. All I will say at this point is happy 85th birthday John Platt, and thank you to his wife, Norah. Oh, and well done to the restaurant for not trying to stick 85 candles into that dessert!
After yesterday’s fun and games gallivanting up and down the West and East coast main lines I’ve had a far more relaxing day catching up with work at home – with nary a real train in sight! It won’t last of course, but it makes for a pleasant interlude. You can find many of the photos from yesterday on my Zenfolio website. Follow this link to see which galleries they’ve been added to as there’s a variety. Here’s one from the end of last night, when my homeward bound Grand Central service was diverted via Hebden Bridge.
Whilst busy editing pictures I’ve been keeping one eye on events in the wider world and the political shenanigans in the UK where we’ve been graced by the presence of the Tango’d Tw*t. Sorry, the President of the United States of America, who’s been rubbing shoulders with other NATO leaders including our very own bouffant buffoon, Boris Johnson. It seems it’s not just ridiculous hairstyles and a proclivity to misogyny the two men share, it’s also an aversion to press conferences and interviews. Both men either cancelled them or cut them short, whilst Johnson is still running scared of and hiding from a BBC interview with Andrew Neil! When these mean are classed as ‘leaders’ of the free world is it any wonder we’re in such a mess?
With all that in mind I filled in my postal vote today. Regular readers will know that I’m advocating voting tactically. There’s hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of us who see themselves as politically homeless at the moment due to the shit-shower on both the Left and Right of UK politics at present. I’ve talked to just as many Tories who’re in that position as I have Labour supporters. There’s no doubt that Brexit and the parade of the dogmatic, venal or talentless politicians that we see on either front bench right now has caused a shift from the old tribal politics. It’s just that none of us know where it’s going to lead when the dust finally settles. So far the election campaign interviews with various politicians have seen more car crashes than the Indianapolis 500. I especially like this one, with the latest in a (very) long line of UKIP leaders!
As a tactical voter I’ve had to hold my nose and consider who is best placed to keep out Johnson and help block Brexit, rather than whom I might prefer to vote for. of course, the decision’s never easy as you may end up voting against a good local candidate, but many voters are now doing what not enough MPs have – and are putting country before party (if they still feel they have allegiance to one). This went into the post tonight, sans stickers of course…
With the latest polls showing a narrowing of the gap between the Tories and Labour and distinct signs that tactical voting is starting to register it looks like we’re in for a very unpredictable election night that could very well provide some more ‘Portillo moments’. I see the Green party have now stood aside in the Chingford seat of arch Brexiter Iain Duncan Smith, who only has a slim majority in a constituency evenly split between Remain and Leave in the 2016 referendum. It’s also rumoured to be looking dicey for another Brexiter and member of the Cabinet, Dominic Raab, in his staunchly remain constituency of Esher and Walton, which would be a major turn-around. I’m not going to expect too much as one can always be let down, but I suspect many of us can think of certain dogmatic MPs who serve no useful function that we’d love to see lose their seats. I wonder if someone shouldn’t produce a Brexit Bingo card with their names on? It would certainly add to the entertainment.
If the polls continue in this vein I’d certainly recommend getting in the popcorn for the night of December 12th, along with something stronger, just in case it’s needed.
Talking of the election but on a different tangent it’s been amusing to see the dwindling band of StopHs2 Nimbys desperately trying to pretend that they’ve still got a dog in the fight and can actually swing the vote in some constituencies. The fact we’ve empirical evidence from every election since 2010 to prove this is nothing but bluster makes no difference, they’re still maintaining that fiction! Quite who they expect to fall for it – other than themselves – is a good question. here’s a classic example from Peter Deeley.
Seriously? No, it’s bluster, Deeley’s timeline reveals that he’s always been intending to vote for the Brexit party. Shame they’re not standing in his constituency, as I’ve blogged about previously here!
OK, enough of politics, I’m off to edit a few more pictures! Goodnight…
Another varied week’s kicked off with sub-zero temperatures here in West Yorkshire, leaving me glad that much of the day’s been spent working from home in the warmth as it’s perishing out there! I do have to venture out this afternoon as it’s the Friends of Mytholmroyd stations annual Christmas carol concert. Children from the local schools have return outing on the train to the Jubilee refreshment rooms at Sowerby Bridge to sing carols on and meet Santa Claus, whilst yours truly volunteers to take the pictures. Here’s one from last year. It’s always a jolly event and afterwards the adults adjourn to the Shoulder of Mutton pub in Mytholmroyd for pie and peas and something to keep the cold out!
In an entirely different vein I came across this crass bit of election stupidity on Twitter earlier, posted by Jane Smith, who’s standing in Congleton on an animal rights ticket. She also opposes HS2 and decided that hanging around standing on a foot crossing across a busy railway line near Alsager to have her picture taken would be a good way to try and score political points. Instead she scored an own goal…
To say that people in the rail industry get annoyed at these pictures would be an understatement – as Ms Smith found out after I retweeted it with a critical comment and many rail staff took to Twitter to express both their annoyance and disgust. The tweet has now been deleted. I expect her political career will be just as short-lived.
I’ll blog some more and add a few pictures from tonight’s festivities later today, so watch this space…
It’s been a cracking (if freezing) evening. I headed over to Mytholmroyd in good time to rendezvous with the groups at the station before catching the train. What’s lovely to see with these events is the cross-co-operation between different station friends groups. People from Mytholmroyd, Brighouse and Bentham station friends all turned up on the night as well as staff from Northern Rail. Here’s a few photo’s from the evening.
It feels rather surreal realising that we’re already in December. The year seems to have flashed past so quickly. The arrival of a new month has also seen the return of the sunshine. We’ve a beautifully crisp winters day here in the Calder Valley, although we won’t be seeing much of it as the pair of us are off to Manchester by train to do some Christmas shopping. Hopefully the exercise will work off some of the fantastic food we enjoyed at The Engine last night.
I’ll post a few pictures and comments through the day as time allows.
We’re on our way on a packed 3-car from Sowerby Bridge, with 7 of us sharing a vestibule. At least there’s tip-up seats in the vestibules of these old 158s so it’s not too bad! Mind you, we’ll be calling at several stations on the way, so this train could be quite ‘cosy’ by Manchester…
My prediction came true by Hebden Bridge where dozens more joined us including a cyclist who just managed to squeeze her bike into the last available space.
We added more variety at Todmorden where a chap boarded carrying a 5ft tall Xmas tree, it’s not wrapped up either! Luckily he boarded at the other end of the train!
There’s now 10 of us in this vestibule, including the Conductor, who’s doing the doors from here. To add even more variety whe’ve been joined by several children, including one dressed as the Incredible Hulk, complete with green facepaint!
Thank God we’re ‘fast’ from Rochdale, as there’s not a square inch of space left on this train. The kids are stowed away in the luggage rack and people are holding on to watever they can as we rattle and roll our way into the city…
It’s amazing how many people you can fit on a 158!
I hate shopping at this time of year when the city’s packed. Whilst the atmosphere around the Christmas market is lovely it’s a pain in the arse trying to tour the shops in search of what you want – especially when you can’t find it! In the end we did manage to salvage something from the day and ticked off a couple of items from our lists, but not much! Having exhausted our patience the pair of us adjourned to a favourite haunt in the Northern Quarter for a drink in order to gird our loins for the trip home.
Sadly, our cunning plan backfired as we arrived at the station to see our train was absolutely rammed to the gunwhales, leaving many of us unable to get on. As the next one wasn’t for another jour there was only one option that made sense – another pub and chance to explore a bit more of the Christmas market.
We’re now sat on the 18:57 to Sowerby Bridge, having arrived in plenty of time to get on this time. It was just as rammed on leaving, but we were first in the queue. It’s another 3-car Class 158 which is going to make it popular with the homeward-bound pub crowd later as the toilet door doesn’t lock!
Bliss! We’re finally home in the warm and out of the freezing cold. The mercury’s really dropping tonight and it looks like we’re in for another cold one. The Council’s gritting lorries have been busy and many of the roads have had a layer of salt since the early hours of this morning. I always wonder why it is we still use something so corrosive nowadays. Many of the buildings here that are close to the road bear the scars as the stone is eaten away by the salt splashback as vehicles drive past.