The 3 peaks by rail adventure’s over for another year and no doubt many of us are still on a bit of the high as it’s such an amazing experience to be part of. Here’s the Railway Children team on the train last night. For once, I’m actually in the picture, rather than taking it. Everyone’s hard work has raised over £225,000 for the charity.
Last night I stayed in a hotel in Crewe as I’m on the move again today, this time to join my wife Dawn and her parents down in Pembrokeshire, where we’ve booked a holiday cottage for a few days. It’s going to take me most of the day to get to Carmarthen, where they’re meeting me, as my first train off Crewe isn’t until 11:11. I’ll blog about the trip as part of it is on the scenic Central Wales line from Shrewsbury to Llanelli.
Not a great start to the day. Apart from the fact it’s bloody cold here in Crewe my first trip has turned into a bit of a farce. I’m catching Transport for Wales’s 11:11 to Shrewsbury. It starts at Manchester Piccadilly and terminates at Newport but for some reason there’s had to be a set swap at Crewe. Cue the usual confusion and melee of passengers as people transferred between the two sets, even though the terminating train drew up right behind the other in the same platform. We ended up leaving 12 minutes late, which is making my connection at Shrewsbury rather tight with no time to stock up on food as there’s no trolley service on the 12:04 to Swansea. Luckily I’d planned for such eventualies and kept back a couple of cereal bars from the 3 peaks trip!
The TfW Class 175 I’m on has definitely seen better days. The seals on a several of the windows have gone, leaving them covered in moisture and virtually impossible to see out of, It’s also full of litter left behind by previous passengers. All in all, it doesn’t give a good impression.
I needn’t have worried about my connection! I did a bit of checking at it seems the stock to form the 12:04 comes empty from Crewe where it’s been serviced at the Arriva depot there. It’s following on behind us, so it’s late too!
We’re off! Possibly because the Great Western Main Line in Wales is closed for electrification works so there’s the dreaded ‘bustitution’ this service is full and standing. Here’s the scene on the platform at Shrewsbury before our train rolled in…
Mind you, as the 12:04 is worked by a single-car Class 153, that’s not too difficult. I’ll be on this train for the next 3hrs 32mins, all the way to Llanelli, where the Heart of Wales line joins the main line to Swansea.
Fist stop was Church Stretton, a place Lynn and I used to come to for walking holidays as it’s an ideal base to explore the nearby Long Mynd and some of the other surrounding hills. We continued South down the double track main line as far as Craven Arms. This is the junction where the Heart of Wales line branches off, cutting through rural Wales to reach Llanelli. You know you’re on a country railway straight away by the noise as much of the line still uses jointed track and the noise the wheels make as they pass over is very distinctive.
To compliment my trip and make it more interesting the weather’s picked up. We’ve got a combination of stormclouds, sunshine or cotton-wool clouds.
Having passed through several request stops or first fall’s been Knighton. The station has a passing loop so we have to stop there for the driver to collect the token for the next single track section.
A few miles further on we called at Knucklas, a tiny station and small village that’s famous for its attractive stone viaduct with its castellated ends. I stayed here many years ago to get pictures and I really should come back to update them one day.
We’ve arrived in Llandrindod Wells where we’re passing a Northbound service operated by a Class 150. The town’s one of the biggest on the line. There’s no wifi on the train and the phone reception’s pretty ropey around here so expect gaps to this blog!
I’ve changed trains at Llanelli (God, it’s rough), now I’m heading to Carmarthen. I ran out of time and wifi to describe the beauty of some of the Heart of Wales line but I’ll certainly be visiting again soon. Right now I’m looking forward to discovering at least one new line as I’ve never travelled on any of the routes West of Carmarthen before which is a unique situation for me. Over the years I’ve travelled 95% of the UK rail network but always managed to miss this corner.
The good weather I had in the North of Wales hasn’t been replicated down in the South. Instead it’s cold, wet and windy. Even so, it’s lovely to follow the coast here. The industrial dereliction’s been left behind to be replaced by narrow beaches decorated with driftwood and wading birds. Finally we leave the coast behind to head up the side of a narrowing estuary that leads us into Carmarthen, where (hopefully) the others will be waiting for me.