Yesterday was our second wedding anniversary, but it didn’t go entirely to plan due to the fact Dawn’s gone down with the lurgi. Of course, this follows straight on from a fantastic weekend with friends where we (belatedly) celebrated my 60th birthday, which was last month. 15 of us congregated in London at Café Spice Namaste for what was a lovely evening.
On Sunday we made our way back from London to Yorkshire. Sadly, it was all a bit of a rush, but that’s because a few of us had a lie-in after staying up until 02.30. We were staying in a hotel in London’s Eastern Docklands and the weather was so good on the Sunday Morning we couldn’t resist taking a minor detour on the Emirates Airlines cable-car across the Thames to North Greenwich. This left us with little time to get the train our friends had booked from Kings Cross to Yorkshire, so I ended up doing my best London travel guide impression, using my knowledge as a former Londoner to navigate our way across the city’s public transport system. Here’s how things looked from the cable car.
Our trip back home was made easy by a straight-through trip on Grand Central to Halifax, where we caught up with our friends for a last drink in the Big 6 before home. Yesterday was far more relaxed as, apart from slipping out to get some shopping, we stayed in all day. Dawn wasn’t feeling 100% and the weather was filthy, so there was no incentive to venture out apart from me having a dental appointment to pick up a shield. It seems I’ve started grinding my teeth in my sleep. After nearly four years of the shambles that is Brexit I can’t say that I’m entirely surprised. Biting my tongue during the day and grinding my teeth at night seems entirely normal behaviour under the circumstances! To prevent excessive wear and tear I’ve now got a shield for my lower teeth which is to be worn at night. If only a solution to the Brexitshambles was that simple…
So, instead of the pair of us venturing out we spent the evening cooking. Dawn prepared a Flemish beef stew with beer before retiring to her sick bed, leaving me to take over and prepare all the veg and finish the cooking. I have to say, the stew was delicious!
We fell in love with this rich dish when we were in Bruges last month. With the weather being so miserable it seemed like the ideal comforting food to prepare, although we eschewed the traditional chips for a mixture of roast potato’s and red cabbage as an accompaniment.
Today I’ve been on nursing and shopping duties as well as working from home. There’s been plenty of news to catch up on, hence this blog on HS2 I penned this morning. I even managed to venture out for an afternoon constitutional, although I’ve not been breaking any records today! Hopefully tomorrow the weather (and Dawn) will begin to pick up…
Yesterday’s torrential rains are causing ripples (if you’ll pardon the pun) today as rail services in the Calder valley are still disrupted. For once the line didn’t flood at Walsden but over in Lancashire. It finally reopened earlier this afternoon, but services are still chaotic with many trains cancelled. This morning, trains from Leeds were being terminated at either Hebden Bridge or Todmorden and nothing was running at all East of Manchester Victoria. This screen at Todmorden says it all…
I’ve ventured out as far as Walsden to have a look and get a few pictures (which I’ll add later). We’ve had very little rain so far today although the skies are constantly changing and threatening another deluge. Sadly, Valley folk are having to become accustomed to floods nowadays. Climate change is here and it’s real, and local human activity up on the moors is exacerbating it by allowing the rain to run off much more quickly.
Trying to protect our Victorian rail network from Climate Change is a huge task. What were once considered once in a century events are now happening with monotonous regularity – and there are no quick fixes or easy solutions as land around railways has been buried under roads or encroached on by housing and commercial developments. This is one of the reasons I’m such an advocate for building HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail. We cannot expect to rely on Victorian infrastructure forever.
OK, as promised, here’s a few pictures from today.
It’s been a wet and miserable day here in the Calder Valley, the leaden skies have been unloading on us since early this morning. If I had plans for an Ark I’d be tempted to dust them off, but then we live high up on the valley side, so if the flood waters ever reached us an ark is exactly what we’d need!
Earlier, I donned my waterproofs and took a stroll down into Sowerby Bridge in order to pick up some shopping and also to get some exercise. I try and walk 5 miles most days in order to keep fit and get away from staring at a computer screen. Today it gave me the excuse to check on the River Calder which runs through the centre of the town. It’s not at Boxing Day 2015 flood levels but it’s way above normal. Here’s the view from the bridge across the river looking East.
This is a still from 2014 showing how this stretch of river normally looks like!
Here’s another view taken from the left hand side of the first video clip, looking towards the railway. The river that joins the Calder under the railway bridge is the Ryburn. It was just the other side of the railway that the 2015 floods happened due to the sheer volume of water being pushed back from the Ryburn by a flooded Calder – just where Sowerby Bridge is at its lowest level.
Apparently, the railway line is closed due to flooding at a familiar weakpoint today, Walsden, to the West of Todmorden, where a culvert passes under the line, so the pair of Pacers you see in the video were the last train to make it through. I also hear that the road between Sowerby Bridge and Todmorden is closed due to flooding!
I’m now back at home in the warm, hoping that the Amber flood warning the Met Office has issued won’t cause us any more problems, but more rain is something we certainly don’t need.
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!
– well, sort of! I was actually up early as our cat insists that on a weekend it has the right to sleep on the bed. How it knows it’s the weekend we’ve never been able to work out, but the moggy can. This meant I was given an early morning alarm call when Jet decided he needed to be fed. As I’d given in to him and Dawn was happily sleeping I sloped off into the office to scan some more old slides I’d prepped.
With such an early Sunday start we both decided to ‘carpe diem’ and make the most of the day by having an early breakfast and going for a long walk through along the canal into Sowerby Bridge, then up through our local woodland (Scarr woods) which is looking superb at this time of year. What was lovely to see was the way some people place Halloween pumpkins in the woods, which can either delight – or scare the shit out of you!
Back at home we continued our productive time as Dawn got into ‘domestic Goddess’ mode in the kitchen to produce a fiery Thai Green Curry from scratch (no pre-prepared pastes here) plus a gorgeous Lemon Drizzle Cake. I spent my time on household DIY (yes, I know – the bathroom) before ploughing on with the never ending job of mounting and scanning more old slides. I’m currently doing an album from 2003 which contains a lot of stuff from Virgin Trains days. I’m looking forward to having them done now that the franchise is about to come to an end as it will be an appropriate tribute to a company that really did a lot to improve the image of the railways in the publics perception.
In the meantime, here’s one of the other slides I’ve been scanning. This is a view across London Waterloo taken from the London Eye back in 2003. The city’s skyline has changed a bit since then, as have the rail services. In those days the old BR built slam door stock was still in use and Waterloo International would be in use by Eurostar for another 4 years.
Today’s really been a mixture! My plan was to spend most of it at home catching up on picture editing and paperwork but the weather was so good this morning that I kiboshed that idea after a few hours. Admittedly, I was in the office at 6am, so I didn’t feel too guilty as I’d got a lot done already.
I stayed locally as there’s enough of interest at the moment because of the new trains we’ve got in the area, plus the abundance of woodland which makes for a fantastic backdrop this time of year. In fact I was in two minds about which locations to choose, but a changing forecast made my mind up for me.
My first port of call was half an hour’s walk away, which was a really pleasant stroll as the weather was so balmy. I headed down to an overbridge near Dryclough Junction which is where the line from Halifax splits into two routes. One heads West through the Calder Valley, the other heads to Brighouse and Huddersfield. Here’s how it looked today.
This time of year the sun doesn’t hang around. I only had a 30-40 minute window at Dryclough before heavy shadows crept in, so I moved on to a very different location and a completely different kind of shot in the hills above Halifax, helped by the fact the weather completely clouded up in the afternoon, otherwise I’d have been shooting straight into a low winter sun. I do like the views around Halifax and beacon Hill as they can really reflect the era when the Industrial revolution (and a colonialist empire) transformed the landscape in both Lancashire and Yorkshire.
Tomorrow we shift tempo – and country – as Dawn and I are off to Belgium by train from Halifax with a small group of friends from our local pub, the ‘Big 6‘. Six from the 6 are off to Bruges for three nights of fun and frolics, food beer and culture – as well as some history, so expect a rolling blog tomorrow as we make our way to London by train before catching the Eurostar to Brussels, then an internal service to Bruges. It’s going to be wonderful to be back on the European mainland in a civilised country and away from the continual and utter shambles that’s Brexit – which I promise not to mention, (well, not much, anyway) Stay tuned!
After yesterday’s excitement about the arrival into service of the new trains, today’s been back to business very much as usual with lots of late running, trains terminating short and cancellations. I popped down to Sowerby Bridge for an hour to see what was happening. It wasn’t great. Several Leeds – Southport and Chester services were cancelled with some Southport trains terminated at Wigan Wallgate. Here’s a look at some of the days services.
As this is early days and there’s always teething problems with new fleets I’m hoping these issues will be sorted out quickly. What’s harder to sort out is the cancellations and delays that have nothing to do with the new trains. After the heartache and hassle passengers and businesses have suffered over the past few years due to the rail strikes, punctuality needs addressing as a matter of urgency. It’s easy to see how the Northern TOC can become a political football when the service is so unreliable. It could be very tempting to politicians desperate to curry favour and secure a ‘cheap win’ and political plaudits by taking back the franchise. Add in the fact that Sowerby Bridge and Mytholmroyd are due to lose many of their services from the December timetable (I understand they’re due to be cut by a third during the week and by half on Sundays) and you can understand local displeasure.
It’s disappointing on another level too. Network Rail have invested in the route, having spent over £100m on new signalling track upgrades and line-speed improvements in the past few years, but this isn’t reflected in punctuality improvements. Why? What’s the route cause of the problems? I’d love to know…
Northern’s new CAF built Class 195s have entered passenger service through the Calder Valley today on the routes from Leeds – Chester and Leeds – Manchester Victoria. Needless to say, I’m out with the camera to capture pictures of this important milestone. It’s the culmination of improvements to the line that have seen the route resignalled, linespeeds increased and platforms lengthened.
I’ll be adding pictures throughout the day. Here’s the first as 195123 picks up passengers at Sowerby Bridge whilst working the 10:22 from Chester to Leeds.
I’ve caught a late-running Chester service which is worked by 195110. These trains are certainly a step-change to the old BR built units we’ve been used to since the 1980s! They’ve far superior acceleration and braking, not to mention all the facilities that passengers have come to expect nowadays, such as power sockets and free wifi. They’ve also got far more seating bays with tables.
Sorry folks, It didn’t turn out to be much of a rolling blog as I was too busy taking pictures! Since I got home earlier this evening I’ve been busy editing them, so here’s a small selection. You can find the full gallery here on my Zenfolio website.
For the number crunchers, the list of units seen in passenger service is as follows. Two car 195002 and 195007. Three car 195103. 195110. 195111. 195119. 195121 and 195123.
It may be Sunday but it’s no day off for me. RAIL magazine have asked me to cover todays 175th anniversary events at Manchester Victoria station. Train services through the Calder Valley are disrupted by engineering work, so ‘bustitution’ from Hebden Bridge Westwards is the order of the day so So Dawn’s given me a lift to Huddersfield so I could catch the 10:52 direct to Victoria. Weatherwise it’s a glorious sunny day and the autumnal colours of the trees look stunning. Let’s see how the day goes…
The event at Victoria’s worth a visit. Outside the front of the station there’s two old Manchester buses and a vintage tram.
Insise there are stalls on the main concourse and upstairs on the mezzanine entrance to the arena. They include the East Lancs Railway and the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway society who have an excellent display of old pictures of Victoria station. Many more are included in this commemorative book which can be bought for £5 from their website.
To add to the fun, Queen Victoria herself has dropped in to admire her namesake!
Homeward bound! I caught a packed TPE service from Victoria to Huddersfield, where I had enough time between trains for a ‘swifty’ in the wonderful ‘Kings Head’, one of the two pubs the station’s blessed with.
Now I’m bouncing my way home to Halifax on the generously proportioned 13:52 Huddersfield to Leeds via Brighouse. It’s a 3-car 144 and 2-car 150 lash-up, which means I’m the only passenger in the lead car! No doubt the train will fill up later in the journey.
After getting back home Dawn and I had some quality time together, enjoying on of our favourite walks from home, down the hill and along the canal into Sowerby Bridge. The sunshine had deserted us, but it’s still a lovely walk this time of year as the leaves on the trees that line our route look stunning. We stopped off for a quiet drink and a chance to read the papers in Williams Bar before strolling back up the hill to home, feeling virtuous having spent Sunday active. Now we’re relaxing at home with a spot of culinary therapy. Dawn’s busy cooking a mixture of chorizo, cannellini beans and spinach which is used as a base for a fish dish whilst I’m waiting in the wings (and a chance at the cooker) with monkfish tails ready to go into a Thai green curry.
I’m out and about with the camera today, hoping to make the most of a spell of sunny weather to get a selection of client and library shots. Dawn gave me a lift into Huddersfield which was basking in beautiful sunshine but right now I’m ln a Trans-Pennine service heading West into Lancashire where I seem to have hit a weather front. The entrance to the Standedge tunnel appeared to be in fog, so my plans may have to be fluid. Let’s see how the day goes…
Perhaps I was a little too optimistic with the weather, but for once, the rain Gods have smiled on me. After leaving Huddersfield I headed for Mossley, a station on Trans-Pennine line in Greater Manchester. There’s some great photo locations around the village, so I headed for a couple of familiar locations where footbridges cross the line with rather scenic backdrops for the pictures. I ended up playing hide and seek with the sun, but for once it played ball just as the train I was after appeared. Here’s the shots.
Within a few minutes of getting these shots the sky turned dark and threatening, so I decided to beat a hasty retreat back into Mossley. It was a wise choice. I was within 200 yards of the station when the clouds burst and we were treated to yet another torrential downpour!
Right now the skies are clearing again and I’m deciding on the next move – possibly back towards Huddersfield. Let’s see…
After a brief foray to Manchester to check out the light I’m now back in Mossley where I’ve grabbed a couple of useful shots of trains passing along the back of the homes and shops on the main road. The fact the railway is literally knocking on people’s back door causes such space constraints that you get scenes like this!
Whilst waiting for photo opportunities I made the mistake of checking the news too see the latest on the Brexitshambles. It is not good. The British (or more correctly, the English) have humiliated themselves in the face of European unity and the unwillingness of the EU 27 to cave in to Johnson’s unworkable ‘plan’ – and I use that word in the loosest sense. So now the blame game is in full swing, as it was always planned to be. Now we have the pathetic sight of the Leave campaign resorting to crude nationalism and German bashing. It’s sickening, but entirely predictable. Most Leavers don’t have the nous to see this is Schrodingers Brexit, where we can simultaneously have “taken back control” and be ‘bullied’ by the EU (and especially by Germany). It’s the ultimate in fcukwittery, but nothing surprises me about this country anymore.
After crossing the bider back into Yorkshure I tried for a few shots around Marsden, then Slaithwaite, onky to find locations I used just a few years sgo are now obscured by tree growth. It’s one of those things that makes me laugh about the Woodland Trust’s scaremongering campaigns. I’ve been living in Yorkshire for less than a decade, but in that time I’ve seen tree growth rise and spread. Look back at old photos of West Yorkshire from the 1950s and the growth of woodland is even more apparent. I was left with just one option, go higher up the valley side. I’ll add pictures later. Of course, by the time I’d climbed a sodding great cloud appeared, but at keast kniw I know where I need to be in the future!
Right now I’m heading back to Manchester to get a few blurry night shots to add to the library. There has to be some advantages to the nights drawing in…