I was woken this morning in a way I haven’t been for many years now. It was by the sound of aircraft on their approach to Heathrow airport. When I lived in North London this was always my alarm call as the first flights into Heathrow would circle across Crouch End on their approach to the airport.
Here in Clapham they’re a little lower, but the effect’s exactly the same. I stayed with an old friend last night and this is the view from his flat. Clapham junction station and the ever changing skyline of central London.
I’ll be getting some shots around here shortly before heading off to Surrey. Here’s one of them. Gatwick Express unit 387217 leads sister unit 216 on a service heading to Brighton via the airport.
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’m about to make my way to the station in order to head to London to join today’s Rail staff Carol service.
Hopefully the railways are behaving themselves today. So far things seem to be OK at Halifax but let’s see what happens in the real world shall we?…
Compared to yesterday when temperatures were below freezing today’s remarkably mild and the walk to the station was rather pleasent apart from the drizzle. I’m in no particular rush this morning so i’m heading to London via Leeds. My first train of the day is the 07:57 from Halifax to Bradford Interchange which has come from Huddersfield. It’s worked by a single car Class 153. Despite that, the train has seats to spare, even after calling at Low Moor – which is a pleasant change!
I wasn’t in Bradford long as I caught the slightly late running 08:20 service which was following behind my ‘Dogbox’. This was formed of a 3-car Class 195 and also had seats to spare.
By pure chance I chose a seat at a table and found myself sat opposite a chap I knew called James who used to be a barman in one of our favourite pubs (The Moorcock Inn). This was the first time I’d seen him since the last time we bumped into each other by chance – on the Staten Island ferry in New York! Funny old world, isn’t it?
Despite the time of day and the hordes of people joining us at New Pudsey there were still seats free for some of the dozens who joined us at Bramley. At one time we’d have probably have left people behind here, so it looks like the capacity and service increase is working.
The fact that my Northern service was late into Leeds meant there was no chance of me making a tight connection so I had half an hour to explore and watch the world go by. A look at the huge information screens on platform 11 showed me that whilst there were cancellations and delays, things had improved significantly compared to earlier in the week.
Services were worked by a mix of old and new vehicles but Pacers were nowhere to be seen, which was a real sign of the times. What were very much more in evidence was Northern’s new Class 195s. With the changes going on I was a little surprised when my LNER service turned up as it was worked by 91129 hauling a rake of Mk4s. I’d been expecting a new Azuma. Still, it’s probably my last chance to ride behind this old workhorse.
I managed to get a table seat in the Quiet coach and set up my laptop to get some work done. We’re South of our Doncaster stop and the coach is busy but not overly so especially as we’re carrying extra passengers because the next train (the 0945 from Leeds) has been cancelled. We’re currently bowling along at 114mph underneath overcast skies, so I’m going to take a break and get some work done….
We’re on the approach to Kings Cross and the lineside’s a hive of activity as Betwork Rail and its contractors mobilise, ready for the big Xmas blockade that will kick-start the major expansion and renewal of the stations throat.
The carol service has commenced.
Normal service has been resumed! The Carol service was a lovely event which brought out people from across the rail industry (high and low) as the pictures I’ll add tomorrow will show. Afterwards, a few of us from across the spectrum adjourned to a nearby hostelry to chat about events in the railways and politics. I’ll name no names, but it was a fascinating discussion. 2020 is set to be a very interesting time. Whilst we were carolling, the Queen’s speech was being delivered in Parliament, which made it clear that the StopHs2 campaign’s dead in the water. Few in the industry were in any doubt before, but now Johnson’s government have made it clear.
Right now I’m en-route to Leeds aboard an LNER ‘Azuma’. It’s been a great trip as I’ve a table, power-point, wifi and coffee! OK, the view out of the window isn’t up to much this time on a December eve – but what the hell…
I’m relaxing at home before another foray to London tomorrow, so here’s a taster of the carol concert pictures.
I’m back in London today for a book launch and heading down early to do a few other things beforehand. Unfortunately, it’s not a vintage day on the rails. Dawn had a phone-call from a colleague, telling her that they’d be working from home today as a person had been hit by a train at Brighouse, causing many cancellations and uncertainty. This made me change my plans too so I hitched a lift with Dawn into Huddersfield and eschewed the idea of heading down the East Coast by heading for Manchester instead. As usual Trans-Pennine Express services are running late by around 15 mins. The situation doesn’t imorove when the Manchester Piccadilly service I was catching was terminated short at Stalybridge in order to work a service back to Hull. Needless to say, the one following behind it is late too, leaving a lot of disconsolate passengers hiding in the waiting room from the cold weather. The sunshine we had in Yorkshire’s refused to travel this side of the Pennines!
Northern Rail always cop the flak for delays but in my experience TPE are just as bad – yet they seem to escape the same levels of criticism, which has always puzzled me.
The 10:53 has been further delayed until 11:12. To add insult to injury, several TPE’s have passed through on their way to Piccadilly non-stop.
I’m finally on my way to London after taking a slight detour when I got to Manchester. In the adjacent platform was a pair of the old BR ‘Pacer’ trains in original condition with the bus-type seats. As they’ve little time left I took a spin on them out to Guide Bridge in order to get a few pictures.
Now I’m on very different traction, one of Virgin Trains 11-car Pendolino’s which could be my final trip with the company as their franchises ends on Sunday after 22 years. Personally, I’ll be sad to see them go but I’m looking forward to seeing what the new ‘Avanti’ franchise will bring to the network.
We’ve just sped through Nuneaton on our way South and the weather’s picked up again to leave us with a sunny but cold day. My train’s only about 45% full, so I’m sharing a table bay of four with another chap who’s busy bashing away on the keys on his laptop in a similar fashion to me. Most folk in this car seem to be travelling for business, so it’s a very quiet coach. The only noise to be heard is the gentle thrum of the air conditioning as it fights against the exterior temperature to keep the coach warm.
Since arriving in London I’ve been busy taking pictures around Euston station and the nearby streets, documenting the changes that High Speed 2 (HS2) is bringing. That said, the station itself feels very different now it’s full of de-branded Pendolinos and Voyagers. I’ve been taking pictures here since the 1980s and seen several changes over the years, but the scope of HS2 is on an entirely different scale! I’ll add links to all the pictures when I have time, but here’s a couple for now.
Phew! After a busy few hours I’m heading back to Yorkshire with my Grand Central train just pulling into Doncaster. The book launch went really well and was attended my many senior people from across the industry as well as many journalists and safety experts. Here’s a couple of shots from the event.
The fun’s not over yet. It seems the fun and games at Brighouse this morning were actually caused by an engineers train splitting the points at Greetland Jn, leaving the direct route to Halifax unusable. To get around the orobkem my Geand Central service is running to Hebden Bridge, where it’ll reverse and head back to Halifax via Milner Royd Jn.
The weather here in West Yorkshire has continued the miserable run that we’ve had for several days now. Most of the day the other side of the Calder valley’s been half-hidden in the murk or had the valley tops disappear completely in low cloud. This gloomy weather does nothing to lift the spirits, nor does the persistent rain encourage one to venture out. Luckily, I’ve not had to. Jet (our cat) and I have stayed warm and dry at home, him in his basket and I in the office from 06:30 this morning, clearing up paperwork and scanning dozens of old rail slides from 2002. If there’s one silver lining about the weather, this is it – I’m making steady progress getting the old pictures (many of which have never been seen by anyone but me) onto my Zenfolio website after 17 years sitting around in albums. Here’s a small selection of the ones that have been added in the past 24 hours.
The weather forecast for tomorrow’s looking even worse than today, although I’m not sure If I’ll have time to scan anymore old slides as I’ve other things that need my attention. That said, you never know. I’ve just 50 left to scan from the present album, so maybe by tomorrow night…
In the meantime, if you want to have look at the full selection that I’ve added to my Zenfolio website, follow this link, which will take you to the ‘recent’ section and show you which galleries they’ve been added to as there’s quite a mixture.
Expect some modern pictures as I get out and about on my travels later in the week.
This wasn’t quite the Saturday that I had planned but sometimes life has a habit of not being what you hope for. I won’t go into details but I found myself stuck at home today in absolutely miserable weather. For most of the day the valley’s been hidden behind a bank of low cloud, rain or fog or combinations thereof. The sun stood no chance!
So, whilst Dawn was out with friends and family, I spent the day holed up in the office scanning old rail slides from 2002 and managed to get 80 done in a marathon effort. As I was a resident of London in those days the current batch of slides are very focussed on the capital as I was always nipping out and about.
You can find the rest of the pictures on my Zenfolio website by following this link. It’ll take you to the ‘recent’ section which will allow you to see which galleries the pictures have been added to.
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!