It’s another of those ‘fun’ days on the railways. We were meant to be travelling from Halifax to London on Grand Central’s 10:36 service, but it was cancelled due to a shortage of drivers. Not the greatest of starts as the railways are under pressure this weekend because of the floods and engineering work which meant East Coast services were being diverted via the GN/GE joint line via Lincoln. Instead, the four of us (we’re travelling with our friends Fran and Aubrey) caught a Northern service to Manchester which was bound for Chester. It was one of the few that hadn’t been cancelled, so we knew that it would be busy. I’d hoped we’d have got a 3-car Class 195. Instead, Northern threw out an unrefurbished 2- car Class 158! It was already rammed by the time we left Halifax. We managed to find some space in a vestibule which became more and more crowded as we stopped en-route. It got especially ‘cosy’ when a chap with a bike got on at Todmorden! There were some grumbles, but when he explained that he really needed to catch that train as he was on his way to work (with disabled kids) in Manchester, folk made room for him. Quite why Northern could only spare a 2-car to work this service is a mystery. It certainly didn’t enhance their reputation with many of the passengers.
On arrival in a freezing cold Manchester we opted to get a tram across town to Piccadilly where Fran and Aubrey had booked seats on the 12:15 Virgin Pendolino to Euston, which is where I’m typing this now. Piccadilly was packed with travellers and late-running services. A check on Real Time Trains showed me that many Virgin services were running late. The inbound working for our service was 25 mins down. Quick work by Virgin staff turned the train around rapidly, meaning the Southbound working was only 5 minutes late departing.
We’re now enjoying a few drinks on the train, glad we’re not driving as the road conditions down South are pretty miserable!
Having negotiated our way from Euston via the tube and the Docklands Light Railway we’re now relaxing at our Docklands hotel before heading out to meet up with the rest of the gang before going for a meal at the superb Café Spice Namaste. Once thing we didn’t expect to find was this. It seems the AA are now interplanetary!
I was up before sparrow fart this morning as I have to be in London for a commission with Network Rail at Euston at 09:00, then in Birmingham in the afternoon for the ACoRP AGM.
Right now I’m walking down to Halifax station to potentially catch the second train of the day – if it’s running to time. My connections are tight if I’m going to be punctual and punctuality isn’t great in the leaf-fall season. There’s no rain this morning, which is a bonus. Instead it’s clear and frosty. The gritting lorries have been busy overnight and as it’s quiet this time of morning i’m walking on the roads rather than the leaf-strewn pavements. Yorkshire stone slabs may look pretty, but in the autumn they’re as slippery and untrustworthy as Boris Johnson!
I’m taking a chance and this could all go horribly wrong, but I’m now on the 05:50 from Halifax to Manchester Victoria, which is being worked by one of Northern’s new Class 195s. It was 3 mins late arriving from Bradford and it’s the first service of the day through the Calder Valley across the Pennines, so I’m taking a risk! I’m sat in the front car and it’s freezing! There’s no heating on and the information screens aren’t working either. The Conductor’s apologiesed and explained that the units come straight off Neville Hill depot and “hasn’t got going yet”!
We’ve just left Sowerby Bridge, where I could have caught the train from (and had an extra 15m in bed) but i’d have been without a plan B (going via the East Coast) if the train had been late or cancelled. To be fair, we’re not doing badly. The driver took it easy leaving the station but the railhead conditions musn’t be too bad as he’s making the most of the unit’s superior acceleration and braking.
We’re now leaving Hebden Bridge and I’ve noticed another thing about this unit (195109) which is there’s a real whistling sound at speed. The unit feels very draughty and I suspect it’s coming from the driver’s door!
The whistling and draughts were annoying enough to make me move into the centre car. It’s still freezing in here but it’s not as draughty! Our timekeeping’s not bad. We’re only 2 mins down departing from Todmorden so I’m cautiously optimistic. In the bay of seats behind me are two men complaining about the service Northern Rail have been providing. To say the TOC has an image problem is an understatement!
We’ve left Rochdale 5 mins late. I can feel the wheels slipping here but the driver’s done well. My connection time in Manchester is going to be very tight, but I might just make it. I’ll let you know if I do afterwards! I’m looking forward to sitting on a nice warm Pendolino with a steaming cup of coffee in my frozen hands…
Bugger – missed it! A 5 minute late arrival into platform 6, the furthest away from the barriers that involves a scrum on the footbridge, meant that – despite a heroic sprint across the city centre – I missed the 07:00 Euston train by 2 minutes! I’m now thawing out in coach C on the 07:15 Pendolino which gets me into Euston 20 mins late. I’m sure my Network Rail colleagues will understand!
Another calamity has befallen me. The coffee machine’s kaput! This could have been an absolute disaster were it not for the fact the chap in the shop had a stash of coffee bags, so I managed to get a brew after all…
We’ve just left Stoke-On-Trent and the few seats keft unoccupied after leaving Stockport have filled up. This is a peak service so tickets aren’t cheap, but that’s not deterred the many business travellers who’re heading down to London for the day. This train’s now fast to Milton Keynes, so I’ll be interested to see how many alight there.
Weatherwise, we had a cracking sunrise around Stockport but now the mist has settled, marring visibility despite the thin, high cloud. I don’t travel the WCML anywhere near as much as I used to, so I’m going to sit back and enjoy the journey for a while.
We’ve just called at Milton Keynes, which became a bit of a scrum because of the passenger churn. Many left us, but many more joined and this train’s now standing room only. Outside, the weather’s changed too. The sky is clear blue whilst the mist has mistly burned off, leaving a lot of the country and lineside steaming in the warm sunshine.
Phew! part 1 of the day’s been done and I now have portraits of 20 members of Network Rail staff in the can after a busy morning at Eversholt St. Despite arriving 25 mins late we managed to catch up time and get through all the pictures that were needed. I even had a bit of time spare to check out progress on the HS2 demolition work around Euston station and the Regent’s Park estate.
Right now I’m on another Virgin Pendolino, this time a 9-car set working the 13:03 from Euston to Birmingham New St in order to get to the ACoRP AGM.
Sadly, the wonderful autumn sunshine I had on the way down and in London has given away to more typical gloomy weather.
Keeping busy at the ACoRP AGM…
The AGM finished at 16:00 but Dawn and I resisted the opportunity to hang around for a drink as we’d seats booked on the 16:57 Cross-Country service to Manchester Piccadilly. These trains are always packed, so it was worth making use of the reservations.
True to form, there was an absolute scrum to get on the train at New St, then the scramble as people (including us) tried to get to their reserved seats. If there’s one train I actively dislike, it’s these. It’s neither fish nor fowl, neither a proper intercity train nor an adequate local one. The sooner these services are replaced by HS2 the better.
15 mins late, but we’re finally in sight of Manchester Piccadilly where we can abandon this train, get some fresh air and clear our ears of the management bollocks being spouted by the guy sat opposite who’s insisting on having a loud (but ultimately pointless as it’s devoid of any real content) conversation on his mobile!
Having traversed Manchester from Piccadilly to Victoria we arrived to find our train home had been cancelled! We’d have been quicker staying at Picc & coming home via Huddersfield. Adjourning to a local history to drown our sorrows and eat crisps we ended up catching the 19:37 instead. We’re now bouncing our way back to Yorkshire on a Pacer (142018 to be precise).
The end of a looong day! I’ve been up since 04:30, travelled hundreds of miles (and walked nearly 11, burning 3.5k calories), visited three of our biggest cities and taken hundreds of photos, so it’s time for a little relaxation and the chance to enjoy a soak in a bath with some of Islay’s finest whisky as a nightcap. Goodnight!
Welcome to yet another month where – despite the utterances and assurances of our liar of a Prime Minister, we haven’t left the EU, and he hasn’t been found dead in a ditch. I’m very happy for one of those tho continue. I’ll let you guess which.
Here in the Calder valley the weather’s not exactly been in a celebratory mood. For most of the day it’s been impossible to see the other side of the valley due to low cloud and rain, so I’ve spent much of it slaving away at my computer in the warm, catching up on paperwork and wading my way through scanning yet more old railway slides. I’ve finally finished another album, which feels like a positive achievement – albeit a small one as there’s still lots more to go. This one’s been from the turn of the century and the summer of 2000. It’s left me feeling rather nostalgic for several reasons. In those days I’d only been back from travelling the world for 6 months and I was just starting to make my way was a freelance photographer. The world was a very different place to the one it is now in so many ways. Anyways, here’s a small selection of the images. I’ll add caption details later. Right now (as it’s Friday) I’m off to the pub for a couple of hours…
Today’s start is a little earlier than yesterday. There’s been no trees down on the road either! Instead I’ve strolled the mile and a half into Halifax and caught Northern’s 08:42 to Leeds. I’m being spoiled today as it’s worked by a pair of 2 car 158s with my unit being one of the fully refurbished ones that has the new style seats and USB sockets – luxury!
The train’s surprisingly quiet but I’m not sure if this is due to the fact it’s still the holiday season or the fact we’ve a 25-50% increase in capacity compared to what we would have had 2-3 years ago. Thos who like to snipe at railways in the North (yes, you Andy Burnham) would do well to remember just how many new or cascaded vehicles Northern’s been able to add to its fleet over the past few years.
I’m en-route to Leeds as I’m returning to London for part of the day to finish a commission, meet up with a colleague and also bag a few more library shots before heading North again to hopefully catch up with another friend and colleague in York, so I’ve a busy schedule. Let’s see how the day goes…
The 08:45 Leeds to Kings Cross Azuma is currently streaking across the Cambridgeshire fens at 123mph with me aboard. We’re 10 minutes late due to congestion at Doncaster earlier. Despite that, it’s been an excellent trip so far and the weather’s looking better than yesterday as there’s far less cloud around. I have to say, I really do like the performance of these Azuma’s. Not only to they go like stink but the ride is really good – especially when you’re sitting swiping at a laptop keyboard. My ‘spull chucker’ doesn’t get half the exercise it would if I was on a Mk3-4 set!
After a really spirited run where our driver managed to claw a few minutes back we’re in the tunnels approaching Kings Cross. It’s time for me to leg it across London again..
Having bitten the Buckinghan Palace cherry twice I made my circituitous way over to Liverpool St via walking to Charing Cross, train to London Bridge then a stroll across the river and through the city. The view across the Thames was worth it!
I’m now North of Peterborough after a day which didn’t plan out quite as expected, but was fun nonetheless! After wandering over to Liverpool St I met up with an old friend who’d just flown back into the UK from Croatia via ‘London Saarfend’ airport. So, naturally I welcomed him back to the tin-pot dictatorship formerly known as the UK and we promptly drowned our sorrows in a local pub named after Lord Aberconway, the last Chairman of the Metropolitan Railway.
After a few beers we parted company and I retraced my way North much in the way that I did yesterday. So much so that I’m now on LNER’s 17:55 from Stevenage to Harrogate HST, and frankly, it’s a nightmare compared to the Azuma I came down on. It’s taken me twice as long to type this as the bloody thing’s performing like a yacht in a force 10. Trying to type is like playing darts, you hope to hit the relevant key but the chances are minimal.
That’s the end of this rolling blog folks, I’m now back at home after a long but fun packed day. There’ll be no rolling blog tomorrow as I’m based at home, but expect a few pictures and commentary to appear. If I have time I’ll add some historical stuff too. G’night!
After the past few days glorious weather up North the rain’s reappeared and today’s forecast is less than optimal. Because of this I’m heading down to London to fulfil a more unusual commission. One of my clients needs pictures of Buckingham Palace. No, I’ve no idea why either, but ours is not to reason why…
Whilst I’m in the capital I’ll be getting some library shots of the ever changing railway scene, so expect a few bits of interest to appear throughout the day…
I’m on the road slightly later than planned as I had to send a batch of pictures one of the rail magazines had requested. To speed up the trip I’m getting a lift into Huddersfield with Dawn so I can take the direct TPE route to Leeds rather than walking to Halifax for the meander via Bradford. Typically, just as we left the house the drizzle started! Not only that, but a few minutes before we drove past, this came down on our road.
Normal service has been resumed on TPE. I’m stood in the vestibule of a packed Class 185 on it’s way to Leeds. On the drive across I was scanning the news about the latest Brexitshambles and BBC story that Johnson is about to ask the Queen to suspend Parliament, thus enacting the political coup that will allow him to crash us out of the EU with no deal, rendering Parliament powerless to stop him. Truly, this country has become a dictatorship and the effects are going to be appalling. The Brexit zealots have no idea of the consequences of what they’re doing. They want Brexit at any cost, no matter how damaging. I fear the UK isn’t going to survive if they get their mad way.
I’m now speeding my way to London on LNER’s 10:45 Leeds – Kings Cross. The train’s not too busy but I’ve drawn the short-straw as I’m now surrounded by a group of middle-aged women on a jolly to London, one of whom insists on showing the rest of the group the video contents of her phone. Why anyone would want to watch video’s of a baby screaming is beyond me! We’re just calling at Doncaster, so I expect the train’s going to get even louder. I’m kicking myself for not packing my iPod this morning, especially as I had it to hand just before I left the house. Instead, I’m taking refuge in work and trying to thin out the contents of my email inbox.
We’re on our way from Peterborough now and the weather’s looking a lot more promising than at home. Although there’s high cloud it’s very broken. If this keeps up I should be able to get the pictures I need. Meanwhile, I’m making the hoped-for inroads into my inbox and clearing a backlog of pictures filing so it’s been a pretty productive trip so far…
Would you ‘Adam and Eve’ it! Despite dashing across London to Buckingham Palace, I arrived at the same bleedin’ time as clouds and a brief shower. This was despite leaving Kings Cross which was baking in sunshine! So, there was me, sitting on the steps of the Victoria statue across the from the palace, pondering the place on the day of our deepest political crisis since world war 2 and thinking ‘kin ell! Eventually the weather played ball long enough that I could get a couple of shots that were fit for purpose. I’m now off to Victoria to head across London to hunt a different quarry: Class 710s.
After travelling on my old friend the Victoria line I’ve emerged from the foetid atmosphere of the tube into the fresh air at Blackhorse Rd, North London. The station is an interchange with the ‘Goblin’ (as the Gospel Oak to Barking line’s known to locals). After years of difficulty with delayed electrification, cancelled services and late-delivery of new trains the line’s beginning to settle down and look forward to a reliable and prosperous future. In a scene replicated across so much of this area, the station’s overshadowed by a multitude of tower cranes building new high-rise blocks of flats, although who can still afford to rent them is a mystery.
Whilst I was on the ‘Goblin’ I saw the last of the day’s sunshine in which I managed to grab a couple of decent shots at Blackhorse Rd and Harringay Green Lane before deciding to call it a day and begin my trek back to Yorkshire. As I was back in an old haunt I couldn’t resist getting one of the Turkish flatbread stuffed with minced lamb and spices that are popular fast food on Green Lane.
The area may have gone more upmarket from when I know it in the 1990s-2000s but there’s enough that’s familiar and the area still holds some wonderful memories for me. Wandering up the ‘ladder’ as the streets there are known I caught a train from another old haunt, Hornsey station and hopped between a few of the tired old workhouse Class 313s and their shiny new replacements, the Siemens Class 717s. The rush-hour hadn’t begun to bite so there were plenty of spare seats. At Potters Bar I changed once more, this time to a Siemens Class 700 which will carry me to Stevenage where I’ll pick up an LNER train. The weather across the Northern suburbs has turned dark and dismal with small showers, hardly ideal for photography so the camera’s getting a rest!
My penultimate train if the day’s an ancient HST working a Kings Cross to Harrogate service. If there’s many typos in this part of the blog I apologise, the rocking and bouncing on this train at speed is awful! They may be liked by enthusiasts but the ride quality’s not a patch on an Azuma!
We’re just leaving Wakefield under some exceptional skies as the edge of a heavy band of cloud is meeting the setting sun which is picking out a few stray clouds like a search light. It’s glorious! The effect was the same in Leeds but there was no chance of ne getting in a place to get pictures I was straight on to my last train of the day, Northern’s 20:06 to Huddersfield via Halifax which is worked by a neatly kept but tired Class 156.
The final trip of the day’s begun and I’m looking forward to getting home and relaxing for a few hours as tomorrow’s going to be another much-travelled day…
I’m at Twickenham station after completing the first assignment with Network Rail’s ASPRO (Asset Protection) team where we visit the project you can see in the background to this picture.
This is the new station building that also contains flats and shops. It’s a complex project built astride the operational railway that’s due for completion next year. We’re now off to have a look at a similar project in Kew.
Wow! That was interesting. You get to go to all sorts of places in this job. This triangular site is bounded by three railway lines. On one of them sits Kew Bridge station (just off the the left of this picture). Around the triangle’s a vast housing development that also includes Brentford Town’s new 17,000 seat stadium. It was originally planned to be 20,000 but this would have overhung the operational railway and proved to be difficult to maintain, so was scaled back.
Next up was Vauxhall. Wait till you see some of the other pictures I took from the roof of this new 27 storey development!
Like this, looking at Vauxhall station in a way you never normally get to see it – unless you’re in a plane!
Now I’m in Stratford, an area I knew well as I lived and worked near here for 11 years. I have to say, where we are now I wouldn’t recognise at all. The only thing that still remains is the railway from Stratford heading up to Lea Bridge. Everywhere you look new housing has sprung up.
After a long, hot and sweaty day I’m heading back North on LNER’s 18:33 to Bradford Forster Sq. This is still worked by a Class 91 and Mk4 set, but they’re showing their age. This set is missing coach D, which is causing a few problems. Plus, both ovens in the buffet are kaput and the PA’s on the blink!. That said, the Train Manager’s doing an excellent job keeping passengers informed. He’s pointed out that the first stop is Stevenage, where (normally) at least 100 people will leave the train, so there should be plenty of seats available (he was right by the way).
I’m on my last leg, if not my last legs! The journey up to Leeds was pretty good. I managed to get a bit of work done on the train but also had time to collect my thoughts for a bit and enjoy the scenery for a while, which is a rare treat.
Now I’m on Northern’s 21:08 from Leeds to Huddersfield via Halifax which is made up of a two-car 144 and 150 lash-up which were joined in the station as I arrived. I suspect they’re heading to Huddersfield for stabling overnight. For old times sake I’m travelling on 144009 as Pacer withdrawals start this month and soon, they’ll be all gone.
12:12.After a busy morning catching up on paperwork and checking and packing my PPE ready for tomorrow and Friday I’m getting ready to head down to London. The weather forecast is looking promising, so I can travel a bit lighter for a change. Let’s see how the day goes…13:38.I’m on the move after walking down into Sowerby Bridge. It’s a gorgeous day for a stroll, or it would be if I wasn’t carrying both the camera bag and a rucksack full of PPE!I caught a Leeds train, the 13:23 via Brighouse which is running 7 minutes late. It’s made up of a pair of refurbished Class 150s which are mostly empty this time of day. If anyone’s any sense they’ll have taken the day off to enjoy the sunshine!It makes a change to be heading for Leeds without a reversal at Bradford. I’m also enjoying the different scenery. The line through Brighouse to Mirfield is a shadow of it’s former self. Once it was four tracks all the way from ‘brig’, with massive goods yards and a vast amount of freight traffic along with a large steam locomotive depot at Mirfield, one of the last to close in the UK. The site is now a housing estate that was built in the last decade.Some of the towns haven’t fared much better, such as nearby Dewsbury (although it still has a lovely station and great station bar) and Batley, once renowned for its variety club and all the famous names that played there. Now, it’s infamous for the awful murder of Batley & Spen MP Jo Cox by a far-right fanatic.What Batley does have is one of the last surviving signal boxes in this part of the world, which protects a small level crossing to the East of the town. I’ll add a picture later.14:43.I’ve enjoyed a short break in Leeds in the sunshine, now I’m heading South bit by bit. First off is LNER’s 14:45 to Kings Cross which is worked by one of the companies fleet of HSTs that will soon be replaced by Azuma’s. The HSTs replacement on Intercity services is sounding the death knell for something that dates back to the dawn of the railways. The slam door…The HSTs that will remain in service are being converted to power operated doors, meaning the remaining slam door stock will be operated by charter operators and a couple of the freight companies like DB who lease them out to one or two operators like Scotrail, Abellio and Transport for Wales but they’ll be history on intercity services17:12.Far later than I expected due to technical issues with dealing with last minute picture requests, I’m now speeding south from Doncaster on another LNER service from Leeds, only this one’s a crowded and toasty Mk4 set. The air conditioning is struggling in my coach (F) but it’s the only one I could find a free airline seat in. Despite that, the crew have been great.All I can say is I’m glad I’m not dressed in full PPE (other than boots, which are easier to wear than carry) and I can dress down and pretend this is a local train in Thailand. Well, apart from the sights, sounds and smells, obviously!18:21.I abandoned my LNER service at Stevenage which offers a very handy connection to cross-London Thameslink services. The days of having to fight your way from terminal to terminal via the London Underground have dropped dramatically and will do so even more when Thameslink finally opens.20:18.OK, I admit I dallied in old haunts in central London for half an hour as the weather was so perfect. I bailed out of my Thameslink service at Blackfriars after seeing the stunning weather. I couldn’t resist a short walk aking the south bank just see see how the ever changing skyline of the ‘square mile’ looks like now.
Mind you, it’s not just the city. After my stop-off I continued on to the rebuilt London Bridge station before heading back to Waterloo, where my train to Feltham was leaving from platform 24. Hang on a minute – 24? Yep, one of the old Eurostar platforms.
09:05.Slightly later than planned due to delays I’m heading back to London for a couple of days work for clients. As is often the case in my line of work the weather will play a large part in how successful things are. Right now I’m chugging up the long climb from Bradford Interchange in a Northern Class 153 attached to the rear of a 2-car 158. The hopper windows allow plenty of ventilation- as well as sound effects from the underfloor engine working hard.Yesterday’s persistent rain has vanished although the skies are full of clouds displaying the entire palette of grey from off-white to battleship, daubed across a clear blue sky which briefly manages to show its face. Let’s see how the day develops…11.15.A few minutes ago we pulled out of Peterborough, our first stop since Doncaster. It’s been a very pleasant trip. I’ve a table in the half empty Quiet coach on LNER’s 09:45 from Leeds which is made up of a Mk 4 set.The wifi tells me that we’re belting along at 114mph and that we arrived 5 mins early into Peterborough, where we sat waiting a right time departure.But the times are a changing, as old Bob Dylan sang. The first of LNER’s Mk4 sets went off-lease this week. It was moved to the former coal wagon sidings at Worksop for storage (alongside brand new trains like the Crossrail Class 345s). More Mk 4s will follow shortly as the new Azuma fleet takes over more and more services. Sights like this will soon be a thing of the past.
After lunch with an old friend – the journalist and author Michael William’s, I’m up in Finchkey doing some photography at a retirement home. It certainly makes a change from railways!
In a wonderful contrast to Railtex (which I’ll be back at tomorrow) I’m down in London to cover ‘community rail in the city’. This event showcases all the work various Community Rail Partnerships do around the country. There’s events on several main line stations in the capital, as well as Birmingham New St and Glasgow Central. I’ll update this blog with pictures throughout the day.
08:35. Kings Cross.
We’ve a huge stand on the concourse with several Scottish pipers giving out goody bags. They’re proving very popular with folks wanting pictures
09:28. Liverpool St.
There’s another impressive stand here where you’ll find an 18 foot replica of the ‘Mayflower’ along with goody bags and lots of useful information on the community rail lines in the Anglia region.
There’s been plenty of hi-jinks at Kings Cross, where the Scots have been putting on a display of bagpipers and Scottish dancing.
Phew! It’s been a busy day. I managed to get round to all the London stations where events were held and even had time to see the very first (fare paying) passenger run of LNER’s new Azuma trains. 800113 made history working the 11:03 from London Kings Cross to Leeds.
At nearby St Pancras, members of Kent Community Rail partnerships and Sustrans had a stand on the Southeastern railway platforms. As well as giving out goodie bags and leaflets on places to visit on foot, train or bike they were also carrying out a survey into cyclists taking bikes on trains.
Meanwhile, over at Waterloo, staff and volunteers had turned a patch of the concourse into a rural oasis, complete with trees!
At Paddington, folk were advertising the South-West’s connection with the voyage of the Mayflower and the forthcoming 400th anniversary. To keep folk entertained, 25 members of the ‘Kingsmen’ choir sang on the hour.
Now, I’m on my way to Birmingham via Chiltern trains to see what volunteers from the Midlands are up to.
Well, that was a whirlwind! I arrived in Birmingham just in time to catch the volunteers who’d been staffing a stall at Birmingham Moor St all day. They were very positive about the reactions they’d had from the public as they were promoting one of four new designated community rail lines (the Shakespeare line). Having caught them I hot-footed it over to New St where there were two very different stalls on the concourse. What was great was to see the way passengers took time out from rushing home to stop and engage, which isn’t always easy as many commuters are on a pre-programmed ‘mission’s & don’t want to be diverted from getting home or to work.
With the final pictures in the bag I decided to have a pint in an old haunt before checking into my hotel, only to find that the Shakespeare was full of old friends from the rail industry who’d had exactly the same idea as me after their day at Railtex! So, one pint turned into a bit more than that..
I was with five people ageing in range from early 50’s to mid 70’s All of them had worked for British Railways (BR) in the ‘good old days’. Some of them still have senior jobs in the rail industry now. So, no names, no pack- drill, but some of the stories they were swapping about that era were both hilarious and criminal in what went on in those days.
Bidding farewell I finally checked into my hotel and dumped several kilos of kit that I’d been lugging around all day. My ‘Fitbit’ tells me that I’ve walked over 10 miles today, so I feel I’d earned that beer!
Food was uppermost in my mind. Hot food at that, so I popped into one of the growing number of noodle bars that you can find in cities nowadays for a spicy fix of Udon noodles, chicken and veg leavened with a very respectable chilli sauce.
I’ve never been a burger fan. In fact I can’t think of the last time I ate one. This is the food for me, born of spending so much time in SE Asia.
It’s time to draw this rolling blog to a close. I’m back at my hotel, looking through some if the hundreds of pictures I’ve taken today, but soon it’s going to be time to crash out. I’ve another busy day at Railtex ahead of me…
It’s a soggy start to the day here in the Calder Valley, but looking at the forecast the situation seems to be the same over much of the country, so my photographic opportunities may be a bit limited today. Right now my first job is to head off to the station without getting too wet and begin my trip Southwards to London. Let’s see how things go…Here’s the view across the Calder Valley and Sowerby Bridge this morning.
On the bright side, the train’s mostly drizzle.
I made it to the station without breaking my neck anyways. The problem is the Yorkshire stone pavements around here look pretty, but they’re like an ice rink when they’re wet. You never know when you’re likely to go arse over tit, so in this weather I usually walk on the road, although that has its own risks this time of morning as car drivers are rushing to get to work.I arrived just in time to catch the late running 07:23 to Leeds which had left Huddersfield 7 mins late. I was surprised to see it was worked by a rather tired looking single car Class 153, which could prove to be interesting to say the least…Sure enough, we’ve just called at the new Low Moor station and now we’re full and standing!
The situation didn’t ease at Bradford Interchange as hardly anyone got off. Fortunately, hardly anyone got on either.08:00.We’ve now called at New Pudsey which was packed with people expecting the Grand Central relief service from Hebden Bridge to Leeds. There were several looks of consternation when our little ‘dogbox’ rolled in. It’s now very cosy aboard!
After spewing out its load of weary commuters, our little 153 filled up completely once more, this time working to Brighouse. I was surprised how many people were travelling in the opposite direction – presumably to work in Bradford. As usual, the station was teeming with commuters coming into the city. The place is the 3rd busiest outside of London with a footfall of over 31.1 million souls so the morning and evening peaks can be quite intense. With that in mind I hung around to see the Grand Central service from Hebden Bridge disgorge its load. The Class 180 stopped at the far end of platform 11, allowing the human wave to flood along the platform and also swamp the bridge over to platform 8.
Now I understand why this train’s such a valuable service!09:15.I’m now on the way to London aboard LNER’s 08:45 to Kings Cross which is dashing through the wet Yorkshire countryside at a very respectable pace. It’s not too busy so I’ve managed to bag a table, plug in the laptop and set to work.
The rain’s never let up all the way, now we’re speeding towards Huntingdon after calling at a very damp Peterborough where there were more puddles than passengers.The railway in this neck of the woods is rather different to my experiences this morning. You’ll still get single car Class 153s at Peterborough, but this stretch of the East Coast Main line’s dominated by 8-12 car Class 700s from Siemens and LNER expresses. The shortest trains you’ll see now are the Class 180s used by open access operators Hull Trains and Grand Central. I must admit I’m looking forward to sampling LNER’s new Hitachi built Azuma’s when they enter service later this month.10:44.We’ve just sped through Welwyn Garden City where more new trains are evident. A Siemens built Class 717 was waiting to return to London on a Moorgate working. They’re such an improvement over the old 313s, which I don’t think many passengers will be sorry to see the back of.
Due to the power of social media and serendipity I’ve just had a meeting with an old friend and RAIL colleague Richard Clinnick as we were both passing through Kings Cross – albeit in different directions!Now I’ve headed across London on something a little bigger and busier than my first train of the day.
I’m now at the Rail Delivery Group offices in Aldersgate for a meeting. It’s an area I used to know well but for a very different reason. It was during my days in housing, when I was on the board of the old National Federation of Housing Co-ops.
After a successful meeting I came out of RDG to find the weather was breaking and the sun was making a bid to shine. This made me head over to Euston to get some pictures of the Hs2 work that’s in full swing. Ironically, I’ll now be back here again on an assignment. Demolitions are ramping up. A few months ago this was the site of the old ‘Bree Louise’ pub and hotels.
Whilst I was here I bumped into a rather sad little StopHs2 demonstration outside the Euston Tap. Apparently, a couple of people had ended up here after walking the length of the Phase 1 route. A tiny group of no more than a couple of dozen folk,including Joe Rukin and the inflatable elephant, some paid lobbyists from the ‘Taxpayers Alliance’ and a trio of ‘Extinction Rebellion’ placard wavers were here to greet them and try to drum up media interest. Needless to say, they were vastly outnumbered by the people wearing Hs2 high vis who are gainfully employed on the project! It was all rather farcical. The genuine protesters (not paid lobbyists, media or hangers on) were almost exclusively retired. When you consider that 6.5 million folk live on the route of Hs2 and this (in one of their supposed strongholds, Camden) was the best they could do…
The guy in the green ‘Taxpayers Alliance’ windcheater was one of several at the demonstration. The TPA is a political lobbying group that refuses to admit who funds it. One thing’s for sure, it’s not ordinary taxpayers!
I left the sad spectacle of the Stop Hs2 flop behind by catching a train from Euston Northwards as far as Bletchley, for a trip across to Bedford on one of the new Vivarail class 230s.
Sadly, it wasn’t to be. The 15:51 departure to Bedford failed with a defective power unit and had to be swapped. This took over half an hour – in the middle of a thunder and hailstorm! So, rather than tempt the fates further I changed plans and caught a train to Milton Keynes after getting a few pictures. It was a shame as I had chance to have a look around the train before it was declared a failure. Vivarail have done a really good job with them. The interiors are very smart, they look comfortable, have a range of seating as well as plenty of power points and USB sockets.
Now I’m speeding towards Manchester on a rather different conveyance, one of Alstom’s 11 car Pendolino’s. I don’t get to travel on them anywhere near as much as I used to, but their performance never fails to impress – or the way they tilt through curves.
Back in Manchester.
I’m now back in the bosom of Yorkshire and bringing this blog to a close. See you all tomorrow!