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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
We’re on lil’ Ratty..
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
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…
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hmm, what to choose as a picture of the day? Something to match my present mood? Thunderous or gloomy skies would fit the bill there. Maybe something to match my opinion of the current Government? I’m not sure I have any circus pictures…
Nah, I’ll pluck one at random as I nearly always do.
Today was another of those days where it lived down to expectations, for a variety of reasons. When the bright spots are you actually hit your step target and managed to get loads more stuff listed on eBay you realise this isn’t exactly the jet-setting, rock and roll lifestyle.
Not that there’s much chance of either at the moment as the Government are expected to list more Covid restrictions. Sadly, I’m trapped in a neck of the woods where cases continue to rise, so I’m not being optimistic. A visit to a local supermarket today made me realise just how many people think masks are actually hammocks to support their double-chins! So, right now I feel a bit like a prisoner of events – only there’s not much chance of me building a glider in the roof – Colditz style! Hopefully, once whatever’s announced is announced I can start planning some things with a little more certainty. In the meantime – there’s writing to be done, pictures to be edited and decades of collected ephemera to be sifted and either junked, recycled or stored.
Oh, a picture of the day – I’ve plumped for this as it’s reminded me of a better times. In March 2018 I joined a group of other people – mostly from the rail industry – for a cycle ride to raise money for the charity the Railway Children . We covered 270 miles across Rajasthan in India in a few days in March – not exactly the coolest time of the year. It was a brilliant event with some excellent people. It was also tough, but boy, was it a positive experience. Needless to say, as well as cycling and raising money from sponsorship I offered my services as a photographer and donated the pictures. Here’s one. We visited one of the railways stations that the RC have a presence on and met a group of the homeless children they work with. Sometimes pictures happen because all the circumstances come together to make is so – and you spot the moment. This was one such picture.
I’ve been donating my services to the Railway Children ever since 2017. Sadly, this year we couldn’t run another big UK event – ‘3 Peaks by Rail’ due to Covid. But, hopefully, next year we’ll be back – and do it twice to make up!
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/
I’m helping the Railway Children charity this evening by volunteering to with their sleep-out at Leeds station tonight. 30 people are dossing down on the station from 21:30 until 07:00 tomorrow to draw attention to the work the charity does, and also help raise much needed funds. You can find the details here. Tonight, teams will also be sleeping out at London Bridge Station, London Waterloo, Liverpool Lime Street, Manchester Piccadilly, Milton Keynes Central, Birmingham New Street, Glasgow Central and Derby Railway Station.
I’ll be making my way over to Leeds later, so stay with me to see how the day/night unfolds as I’ll be updating the blog on a regular basis…
I’m on my way, complete with camera bag, mat and sleeping bag. Even though we’ll be bedded down inside the station I’m glad the weather’s mild tonight. The walk to the station was actually quite pleasant! I’m now on a Northern (but not for much longer) service to Leeds via Bradford which is worked by a CAF class 195 running its traditonal few minutes late. I’m not going to get into the ins and outs of the Northern franchise, I’ll save that for anither blog. But passengers won’t be seeing any changes for a while…
After a swift reversal at Bradford we’re already on our way ul the bank en-route to New Pudsey. It’s early enough for the train to be busy but not packed. I’ll bet the return working will be tho!
I’m waiting for the others to arrive as I got here early to have chance to get a few photos beforehand, but I hadn’t expected to find this!
I’ve been so busy I’ve not had time to blog until now. 30 of us are bedding down on the North concourse at Leeds, opposite the Wetherspoons. Network Rail have sent a huge group of people that includes their Route Director, Rob Mackintosh and several other senior staff. Although most of us are railway, there is one young lady from ‘First Direct’ who’s turned up. There’s several people I know, like former Angel Trains Director Malcolm Brown, plus folk who’ve taken part in previous fundraising events like the 3 Peaks. The atmosphere’s excellent as everyone knows they’re doing something worthwhile.
The station’s quietened down over the past hour but now numbers are ramping up again as folks arrive to catch their last trains. There’s a few racous souls but most are good natured. We had our own bit of theatre earlier when a well dressed chap wobbled out of the Wetherspoons to sit on the plastic seats nearby and take a phone call. Gravity abd drink were too much for him and he slid off the seat and wbded up supine on the floor whilst he remained on his phone. A couple of our kind souls went to his assistance!
Folks have found a variety of ways to pass the time. Some have already bedded down with a book or phone, whilst half a dozen people are passing the time playing cards invthe centre of the concourse where there’s a collection of plastic seats. The only thing that’s making life uncomfortable is the gale blowing in through the open doors to the car park opposite where we’re bedded down.
The station’s winding down and so are we. Most of our group are curled up in their sleeping bags now although not all are sleeping. Some will stay awake most of the night as this is too alien an environment to feel relaxed in. There’s too much noise and too many lights as far as they’re concerned. But they’re still doing it – because they care about the work the Railway Children does, and I really admire them for that.
This isn’t the first time I’ve slept on a railway station. Or slept rough. There’s far too many stories for me to tell in this blog. But I will tell one.
Back in 1986 I remember bedding down on a railway station in Tamil Nadu in India. The train I was catching was at 3am. I was travelling on a very tight budget, so what was the point of paying for a hotel room? Instead, I joined the throng of people you always find sleeping on stations as Indian railways run all hours of the day and night due to the vastness of the country. We had our heads against the building so that if anyone walked past it was only your feet they’d stand on. The mats we were sleeping on we laid down over the metal grilles that covered the rainwater drain next to the building, then we fell asleep. After a while I was woken by this odd skittering noise I didn’t recognise. It took a couple of minutes before I realised it was made by rats running up and down the drain just inches beneath my head.
In comparison, tonight is luxury…
I’m amazed none of our group have yet tried to kill the bloke going up and down the concourse with the tile cleaning machine. It’s not him, or the machine – it’s the bloody siren attached to it…
I take back everything I said about the tile cleaner. A MEWP’s just been driven into the concourse so guys can attend to some elevated work. The sounds of its poorly silenced diesel engine are so bad it’s almost drowned out the sounds of snoring from an adjacent sleeper! This is the sort of thing rough sleepers out up with day after day…
Oblivious to (or because of) us the bloke in the basket relates every minor detail of what he’s doing to his oppo on the ground. I now now more than I ever wanted to about worm drives on adverts.
The MEWP and men have changed their advert and disappered, leaving us a few hours peace to get fitful sleep, thanking our lucky stars that this is a one off, not our everyday exustence.
I’m awake and decided to explore the station, which is still a ghost town apart from a few passengers who’re on their way home from clubs and earky shift rail staff booking on or who’re already at work. Northern have started the day badly with the first train to Manchester cancelled and others delayed.
Most of our sleepers are awake and packing their bags ready to face the day, off to hunt for coffee and warm food.
It’s been an experience I’ve not had for years and it’s an event I’m really happy I could help the Railway Children with. I’ll upload some pictures later today once I’ve got home and edited them. I’ll also let you know how much the event has raised.
In the meantime, thanks for following the adventure. Now it’s my turn to head iff in search of coffee!
Here’s a bleary eyed good morning from the West Highlands! After a fitful night’s sleep we were woken up by the train crew volunteers who served tea, coffee and croissants along with hot bacon rolls. We’re due into Fort William at 04:19, when the fun begins. I’ll keep you posted…
All the teams are on the mountain, the base camp is established and the banners and finishing line is being set up. Here’s some scenes at departure.
The Rail Delivery Group team in good spirits as they begin their climb. From L-R Robert Nisbet, Jac Starr, Naomi Rial and Paul Plummer
The weather’s wet but the rain’s light and it’s forecast to cease later on. Now it’s just a question of waiting for anyone returning injured until the first teams make it back, which is normally around 10:00. That’s when my work starts as we get individual team photos one they’ve crossed the finish line, registered their time & checked in their kit.Here’s how the mountain looks right now.
Rather than hang around and be midge bait I’m going to walk into Fort William for a few hours.
I’m now sat at Fort William station (which has just opened), using their free wifi to update the blog after having had a wander around the town. It’s not exactly the most exciting place at the best of times, but at 06:30 it’s deserted. I did find one thing of interest. A statue dedicated to the name whom, in 1911 drove a model-T Ford to the top of Ben Nevis!
Once the station opened I had chance for a mooch around with the camera and caught one of the two Class 37s that are hauling our 3 peaks train. As there’s too many coaches to fit on the platform one of the loco’s is detached to create a bit of extra space.
I’ve moved on to the local McDonalds, which is where we take the walking wounded. There’s four of them from various teams, all somewhat dispirited, but not wanting to spoil their team-mates chance of succeeding. I’m sipping a much-needed caffeine (I got very little sleep last night) whilst I download a few more pictures to the blog. My time will be cut short as I’ve just had a call from Katie Mason, the Railway Children’s events organiser. The first team is expected down off the mountain by 09:30, so I need to head back in an hour.
The first team (from DRS) crossed the finish line at 09:26.
Sorry for the gap in blogging, but it’s been a day full of challenges for us all – not least physical one of the teams who’ve climbed the three peaks, but also the mental ones of the folk who’ve organised all the logistics. Either way, everyone’s knackered due to the level of commitment- and the lack of sleep!
We’ve had a fantastic day and we’ve got everyone off the mountain off safe – and raises a huge amount of money for the Railway Children. The different skill groups involved in such a complex event have worked brilliantly – and not for the first time
Morning folks! At 03:30 our train sprung to life. People are waking up and springing into action as we’re on the move, heading back to Bangor to rendezvous with the walkers who are being bussed back from Snowdon.Dawn’s just breaking and the weather’s improved. There’s been no rain since we left Crewe yesterday, although as we head East the cloud is getting thicker and darker. Let’s see what the day brings…
The train’s arrived at Bangor. Now we await the walkers, who should arrive in the next few minutes.04:42.All the climbers are back, on the train and we’re ready to leave. Due to the conditions it was a very tough climb and descent. A few folk are already limping, so I expect our on-board doctor and the two sports therapists will be busy for the next few hours.Whilst the weary walkers strip of their wet kit and relax, the volunteers are busy serving tea and coffee. Virgin chef, Ian Joesbury, who’s worked on every single one of these trains is preparing a cooked breakfast.
The train’s approaching Chester and the two catering cars are a hive of activity as breakfast’s being cooked and 200 rounds of bread are being buttered to make sandwiches for packed lunches. It’s a production line where everyone knows their job. Here’s Molly laying out the breakfast platter, ready to be served.
Meanwhile, in the climbers coaches, people try to rest and get some sleep.
We’re just approaching Preston, most people (apart from the train crew) are asleep or dozing. The weather’s taken a turn for the worse. It’s dark, wet and misty with visibility down to a few hundred metres. This time of morning the station’s almost deserted but we’ve stopped to drop off some rubbish and pick up a few more supplies.
Breakfast is being served in the front three coaches. Meanwhile, climbers are still resting or getting ready in the back three.
The train’s a hive of activity as everyone gets ready to hike. The weather’s broken and we’ve actually got patches of blue sky and broken cloud!
We’ve swapped our mainline train for the narrow gauge ‘lil ratty’ to carry us from Ravenglass to Eskdale. We seem to have a rather unusual driver…
The teams are long gone from Dalegarth now and many have already started climbing Scafell. This year my job’s been different. We’ve had the potential to get some national newspaper coverage so my role was to get shots of the teams starting off, then hot-foot it back to the railway station café to use the wifi and get shots out to our PR people. I’ll catch up with everyone else later.
I don’t know what the weather’s like at the top of Scafell, but it’s bright and sunny where I am right now! Pictures emailed, I’m just waiting for my lift back to join the others at Scafell.
It’s been a very long day with little chance to blog as we’ve spent most of the day in areas with no mobile phone coverage, never mind wifi access!
We’re now on the train on our way to the final mountain (Ben Nevis). Right now we’re at Carlisle whilst there’s a crew change on the train. The onboard crew served a fantastic two course meal to the weary climbers, many of whom have already hit the sack as we have a 4am start tomorrow. Here’s our train arriving at Ravenglass to pick us up after being serviced at Barrow.
We’re currently being held at Lockerbie and it’s time for me to call it a day. As usual, it’s been a brilliant one, even if slogging up fells with a 10kg camera bag (never mind all the other kit) is a young man’s game. I’ve really enjoyed the experience and will share more photos just as soon as I can. Stay tuned for day 3…
The weather here in the Calder Valley’s been awful today. We’ve had that fine drizzle that permeates everything most of the morning. I’ve been busy at home trying to catch up on a bit of work before heading out shortly to join the Railway Children’s annual ‘3 Peaks by rail’ madness. Stay tuned and I’ll try and blog through the day…
I’m finally on my way after a bit of a stressful few hours trying to get everything I needed to do done before I left home. I’m now on the 15:22 from Sowerby Bridge heading for Manchester then Crewe where the train starts from this evening. I’m not alone. There’ll be people from all over the country making a beeline for the town as the various teams meet up. A number of volunteers are already on the train as the stock is being used for a tour by the Branchline society. This will raise even more money for the Railway Children, adding to what the 3 Peaks teams will gather.Sadly the weather’s not looking great. On the bright side, the flooding that closed the line between Crewe and Chester has abated and the line’s reopened, so we’re good to go!
Because of the amount of kit I need for this event, I’m using wheels instead of legs. I’ll need to save those for later!
Deep joy! At Manchester Piccadilly I found that the Transport for Wales 16:31 service to Crew is worked by a 2-car Class 150! The Conductor was very apologetic that “this throwback to the Thatcher era” (his words) was the only unit available! It’s cosy. Very cosy. But at least there’s a catering trolley- if you can fight your way through to it…
The teams are here and having equipment checks. There’s plenty of time to meet and greet or take pictures.
Due to technical issues with the stock and need to refuel the generator car at Gresty Bridge we were a few minutes late leaving Crewe, but it’s no real problem. We’re now bowling along the North Wales coast at 90mph as the first meal is being served.
The logistics of this trip are quite something. During the event the volunteers will wash 4,600 items of cutlery and crockery. 1,140 pieces of fruit and cereal bars will be distributed along with 200 rounds of sandwiches and 380 servings of fruit juice. 200 bacon rolls will also be served. Everyone will get a full English breakfast, a two course evening meal and a three course lunch.
At 21:33 we reached Bangor in North Wales and the teams transferred to road coaches for the last leg to Snowdon. As soon as they were gone the train moved off and headed to Holyhead where the locomotive can run round the train. The volunteers remaining on the train weren’t idle. They were busy collecting plates and cutlery, picking up all the rubbish, disinfecting and cleaning the toilets, making sure the train was fit to pick up the weary hikers in the small hours.
The kitchen wasn’t idle either. Fresh food was being prepared for the volunteers. Ian and his crew were preparing home-made pizza’s for everyone.
Having offloaded all the rubbish in the platform and with the engine having run round, the train’s been shunted into the sidings where it will wait to return to Bangor.
Having swapped a few stories and jokes over food, the volunteers are all bedding down for the night on the train. All the coaches bar one are dark as the lights have been turned off to conserve the batteries.We start moving at 03:52 when we head back to Bangor to await the walkers. I’m hitting the sack too as it’s chance to catch a few hours undisturbed sleep. Part 2 of this blog will start early in the morning. G’night!
It was a long old haul, but I made it! I’m now aboard the special train taking all the Railway Children staff and volunteers on their 3 peaks adventure. I caught up with them at Bangor (North Wales) where the train collected all the hikers after climbing Snowdon. We’re now heading for Ravenglass on the Cumbrian coast where we should arrive at 0900. Right now I’m going to grab some sleep but I’ll blog and post pictures throughout the day.
The train’s burst into life now. People grabbed what little sleep they could, with bodies in sleeping bags draped all through the coaches. Whilst the walkers slept, the crew toiled, preparing a cooked breakfast and hundreds of packed lunches.
There’s something special about being served breakfast at your seat on a train (especially when you’ve been up and down a mountain!). Here’s a sample…
In less than an hour we’ll reach Ravenglass so the teams are busy packing the kit they’ll need for tackling Scafell. Wandering through the train i’ve bumped into several friends from our ‘Ride India’ adventure in March – only re-branded for our latest jaunt!
Fortunately, the storm that hit the UK in the past 24 hours has passed. The sun’s not exactly cracking the flags, but conditions are looking good…
Walkers have detrained at Ravenglass and transferred to the narrow gauge ‘L’al Ratty’
Now we’re on our way to Dalegarth..
I rushed ahead to climb up to my perch on Scafell where I can get the best shots of the teams hiking up the mountain. I only just made it before the first team arrived and steamed past me. My excuse it that I’m carrying camera bag that weighs 14kg – and they’re not! Here’s where I am now.
This is what I was waiting for…
We’re on the move again and heading for Fort William. All teams made it up atop Scafell although there was some attrition. Each team was given the name of a band as their call-sign. I’ve never known so many groups split up since the 1970’s!
There’s been a few minor injuries, although I think the bigger issue has been people underestimating the level of fitness required to do this event. A few weeks walking miles on the flat really isn’t going to prepare you for fell-walking – never mind the UK’s three highest peaks!
After descending Scafell we had a two-hour layover in Ravenglass to allow time for our train to be serviced and our loco (68016) to be replaced by a pair of Class 57s top and tailing us (312 leading and 305 trailing).
On departure our weary travellers were served an excellent repast which had been prepared by the volunteer train crew.
To be honest, most people waned after that. Some sought out the services of the on-board Doctor or ministrations of the physiotherapists. Others just flaked out. It’s 21.34 now and most of us are about to follow as we’ve an 04:30 start in the morning.
All the teams are on Ben Nevis now.
We were given an alarm call at 03:30 when the crew brought round croissants, orange juice and hot drinks as an aperitif for the main course…
– bacon rolls! (A veggie option was available).
Folk performed what ablutions they could (all I can say is whoever invented ‘wet ones’ deserves a medal) before getting their gear together and checking they had the right kit to see them safe on the mountain if the weather changed suddenly.
At 04:30 the train arrived at Fort William and after grabbing snacks off the trollies we streamed on to several coaches which ferried us to the start.
After registering their start time with control, a final radio check and they were off!
Now all the rest of us have to do is set up the finish line and wait for them to return.
The only problem is that base camp is ‘midge central’ this year! The wee bitey things are out in force this year, so many of the staff are wearing mosquito nets that make the place look like a Taliban training camp!
Yesterday I ran out of both time and phone reception to finish updating this blog, so I’m ending it not with words, but pictures.
It’s 05:10 and the last teams are setting off up Ben Nevis.
At 09.00 the first team crossed the finishing line. They’re one of the 6 teams from headline sponsor Stadler, who had entered the challenge for the first time (and did extremely well!)
Scotrail MD Alex Hynes chatting with event staff at the Ben Nevis base. Alex joined us on the train to congratulate the teams and help hand out medals .
Some of the volunteer traincrew who keep the challenge running (year after year). Whilst the teams rest these are the people who’re busy preparing and serving food and drink or servicing the train.
Eoin Brunton serves weary walkers with a meal of chicken in mascarpone sauce on the train home. The scenery on this stretch of the line from Fort William is stunning, but window gazing wasn’t on most people’s minds!
Alex Hynes presented the teams with their medals on the train home.
Posing with the Railway Children team and some of the volunteers who come back and help year after year. It’s always a pleasure to join this band, so roll on 2019!
Sorry folks, life’s been hectic these past few days. It’s given me lots of things to blog about but not the time to do it. I’ve been occupied with bits at home, sorting out pictures for clients, adding pictures to my website and (last but not definitely not least) spending some quality time with my wife.
I’ve a couple of blogs half-written that I hope to publish later this week. In the meantime, an article on my ‘Ride India’ charity cycle ride to raise money for the Railway Children charity has just been published in RAIL magazine which hits the newsagents on Wednesday. Here’s a teaser, you’ll need to buy RAIL to read to full article.
The pictures I’ve been adding to my website have also been rather colourful. There’s been images from Brazil, Malaysia, India, Nepal and the UK . If you follow this link it’ll take you to the most recently updated galleries. Here’s a taster from Nepal in 1992. Do NOT try this at home folks!
A Sadhu (Holy man) shows off his yoga prowess in in the square at Bhatakpur in the Kathmandu valley. Nepal. March 1992.
I’ve a busy few weeks ahead of me which includes a press trip to Germany, the Infrarail exhibition in London as well as other jobs, so keep tuned.