Wednesday 19 December 2012

35: Metrolink Comparisons and Merry Christmas

A warm welcome to edition 35 of the Railwaymedia blog, which will be the last of 2012.
I'm somewhat suprised to discover I've managed to write 35 lots of waffle in a little under a year: indeed it is actually 37 as two blogs ended up as two-parters. As most have covered more than one day out taking pictures, that obviously means I've managed an average of over one trip per week, so I suppose thanks should go to my wife Gill for putting up with my absences from the house!
Having said all that, this edition does just cover one trip. I had intended going down to Kent this week with the main aim of getting a photograph of Polegate Signal Box which I had thought was due to close this month. Due to one of our daughters falling ill on Monday, I was called upon for babysitting duties whilst Gill was at work so was therefore unable to go. It turns out though that fortuitously the program of closure for Southern Signal Boxes does not actually start until autumn next year with Amberley, Pulborough and Billingshurst on the Arun Valley line due to be closed in October. The Coastway East Boxes at Bexhill, Normans Bay, Pevensey & Westham, Hampden Park, Eastbourne, Polegate and Berwick are due to be closed next November.
I had to go to Manchester with work on Tuesday so took the opportunity to have a ride out on the Metrolink Tram new line towards Oldham. Trams started running the 7 miles to a temporary terminus at Oldham Mumps in June and from this week they have been extended the next two and a half miles to Shaw and Crompton. All of this is over former British Rail lines, with the initial section from the current Bury line near Collyhurst through to Newton Heath being on the trackbed of the long closed route via Red Bank out of Manchester Victoria. Despite the rebuilding of the nearest bridge the former four-track heritage of this section can be seen clearly below at the new Monsall tramstop.

After Newton Heath the line takes over the former Oldham Loop Line closed in October 2009. Certain bits have been somewhat rebuilt; in order to save an under-bridge the new South Chadderton stop has been dug out of the embankment creating a bit of a switch-back effect. Whilst the trams currently run through the two tunnels between the former Werneth and Mumps stations in Oldham, from 2014 they will be running on street via the town centre. The temporary stop at Oldham Mumps has seen a total transformation from the previous imposing Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway buildings: in effect the site has been totally flattened. This is Mumps on its final day:

From here the railway used to cross to cross the main road on a long bridge over a wide roundabout, which was something of a local landmark. Seen below is the view of the same location (but looking from the other side) of a Shaw to St Walburgh's Road tram crossing the busy road junction.

The route should extend past Shaw to Rochdale in the new year with the diversion through Oldham Town Centre, and an extension into Rochdale, coming a year or so after that. Together with the other extensions being built in both South (to Didsbury and Manchester Airport) and East (to Droylesden and Ashton) Manchester it is an exciting time for Britain's original new tram system. There are lots of maps and information about these new routes on the Metrolink website.

Well, that is it. With only one day to work between now and Christmas, and only one more until the New Year, I am starting to take things easy and, given that I have managed to reprocess almost a years worth of pictures over the last 4 weeks, I think I am going to have bit of a break from doing that too! I may get out with my camera before the New Year, but if I do I will save talking about where and when until January. All that remains is for me to wish you all a Happy Christmas, thanks for reading and I hope you will continue to keep checking out the blog in 2013!



Friday 7 December 2012

34: Continent and Processing, Coast and Peaks

Welcome to edition 34 of the Railwaymedia Blog.
The last two weeks have turned out to be quite productive, both from the point of view of catching up with my reprocessing of older pictures, but also because I've managed to get out on a few occasions with my camera; nowhere especially exciting, but I have visited one or two spots that for me are interesting from the perspective of documenting the day to day railway.
Firstly, an update on the reprocessing. Having begun around 2 years ago with the adding, and reprocessing, of pictures starting from my first digital images taken on point and shoot cameras in 2003, I have now progressed through to the summer of 2007. I took the decision to standardise on web images of 1200 pixels wide in late 2009, so I have now only around 2 years worth of images to do. I actually feel like there may be light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak. Of course once that is done, I'm going to have to go back through them all and do once again those that I'm not happy with my standard of reprocessing on, but I'm trying not to think about that for now!
One result of getting half way through 2007 is that I have now done my pictures from my foreign trip taken that year in June. This was my second foray abroad (not including Ireland) and involved two days in Holland followed by three days based in Hamburg. The Netherlands I would like to visit again: I think there has been a few changes there with less use of locos on passenger services and the withdrawal of some of the older classes of EMUs, however the country is one of the busiest in Europe for freight and most passenger lines also see very frequent services. For a suggetsion of a location to visit, here is a picture from Helmond 't Hout: if you are interested in seeing what goes through this location, try watching the excellent Railcam situated there.
The other bit of this trip was a visit to the Island of Sylt in Germany. About 3 hours on the train north of Hamburg and only a couple of kilometers from Denmark, the only way on and off the Island is by train so a frequent service of 'Auto-Zugs' (Car Trains) operates across the Hindenburgdamm. The day spent here was probably one of my top 10 favourite days ever spent photographing. I have set up a featured gallery showing the photographs from the island, which can be viewed HERE.
Anyway, having seemingly spent half this blog talking about pictures from over 5 years ago, I suppose I had better move onto those I have taken slightly more recently...
A meet up between a few friends from university had been organised for last Saturday in Nottingham. As with the previous such meeting in Sheffield, I worked out that a 4 days in 8 Coast and Peaks Rover would cost not much more than a ticket to Nottingham on the day, so I decided to make the most of it. As I mentioned in the last blog, I aimed to try and get a few more pictures of the Rail Head Treatment trains before they finished for the year, so to that end a Thursday jaunt to North Wales had been planned. With Wednesday also looking nice weather-wise I went over to Staffordshire to get a couple of pictures on the old North Staffordshire line from Stoke to Derby.
This isn't a line I have photographed much; generally it only has an hourly service worked by East Midlands Trains' class 153s. Seeing a good location at Longton I got off to get a shot of the RHTT heading to Crewe, though a miscalcualtion on my part meant it had run 4 hours earlier: it only runs on Thursdays at the later time. Working nights tends to make you forget what day it is!
I nipped up to Uttoxeter (picture at the top of the blog) and then decided to head back via Stoke to Rugeley. The station there on the Trent Valley line is quite a popular spot for photographers/spotters, though I more or less had the station to myself. As is Sods law, I was right on the wrong side of the edge of the clouds so for most of the 2 hours I spent there the procession of Pendolinos (and a couple of freight trains) passed in dullness. Changing trains at Stafford and I timed it well for a returning RHTT from Crewe to Wembley, so at least I sort of achieved what I had set out to do. Even better was 10 minutes at Crewe coincided with 3 of Network Rail's former class 37s enroute from the Electric Depot to Bescot. Though this was a hollow victory as you'll see in a bit...
So the next day (definately Thursday this time) and the plan was to go to the North Wales Coast to see the class 97 hauled RHTT that runs along there (you may be able to guess what's coming) and also the Arriva Trains Wales class 67/DVT driver training run. Well, the flooding in St Asaph and other parts of North Wales at the beginning of the week had, fairly understandably, led to the driver training runs being cancelled as the set had been unable to come up from Cardiff on the Monday. It also turned out that the previous day was the last day the North Wales RHTT ran, hence the loco move seen the previous evening. You win some, you lose some.
As I was enroute towards Flint when I found this information out, I decided to make the best of a bad job and see if I could get some pictures on the 'Borderlands' line that runs between Bidston and Wrexham, another route I have previously never covered with my camera. There are two Arriva class 150s allocated to this line, and they normally pass just south of Shotton. I first went to see if a shot was possible of them crossing the bridge at Hawarden, 5 minutes walk from Shotton station. There is a footpath across this bridge, but this being on the eastern side of the structure spoils the morning shot somewhat. The little used station at the other end is only served about 3 times a day.
I had a trip up to Wrexham and enroute spotted a nice looking location a short walk from Cefn-y-Bedd station, so on the way back I spent an hour here in order to phtograph the next southbound unit. Unfortunately trees preclude a shot of trains crossing the small viaduct between here and the station. I returned to Shotton and had a bite to eat in the Wetherspoons conveniently next to the high-level station whilst waiting for the setting sun to move round enough for a shot of Hawarden bridge from the western side. It was only after the train had passed that I spotted the opportunity for a panorama shot. The picture of the Sprinter can be seen below, a link to the panorama is HERE.
Saturday, as previously mentioned, was a day for drinking in Nottingham. It is over 6 years since we had last met up there, and therefore that long since I had photographed the tramway, as subsequent visits have all been to solely visit the excellent Nottingham Beer Festival held in the castle. I got there slightly early so took a trip on the tram up to Hucknell and back on the train. Maybe next time I visit the tramway there the planned extensions to the network will be up and running.
The Coast and Peaks Rover covering from Derby and Sheffield to as far as Holyhead is excellent value, in fact when at school we used to regularly buy one during the holidays to ride the class 31 hauled Liverpool-Cleethorpes trains to Sheffield in order to catch a bus (24 to Brinsworth) to Tinsley depot. I remember the horror when we found the bus fare had risen from 2p to 5p!!!
Anyway, I digress... I hadn't really planned on using the 4th day of my ticket, but with Wednesday promising a nice, though bitterly cold day, I sort of retraced my childhood steps by getting a class 158 from Warrington to Sheffield with the aim of taking a few tram pictures, and also maybe having a couple of hours in the Hope Valley on the way back. 30 minutes at the tram junction near the station got a few shots, though I didn't see the nice Sheffield Corporation liveried one. I first noticed a 'Genting Club' in Blackpool a few months back; it's obvious what they are but I'm puzzled why the name has suddenly sprung up everywhere. I bet that if this was an European tram advertising such a club then there would be pictures of women on the side like this Zagreb one!
Visits to the Hope Valley for photography have always in the past been done by car, there is a two hourly stopping service, but some locations are a fair walk from stations and of course at this time of year, the low sun limits where you can go. I took a chance and alighted at Hathersage on the way back, having spotted a foot crossing about 1/2 mile east of the station, however the station itself was good enough, with a zoom lens to get past the shadows, for trains heading east.
I hadn't really much idea if anything of interest was due; I found there was a westbound freight on its way but both of the two booked eastbound services were showing as overdue departing Tunstead and Earles Sidings. About an hour after arriving at Hathersage however I could hear a noise in the distance coming up the valley. To be honest it was that loud I thought it must be some lorry on the nearby road, but after about 2 minutes 70013 appeared round the corner on a cement service to Essex. These are really impressive locos in my opinion, and certainly they sound noisy. This one wasn't 'clagging' so much, but was creating a pretty good heat-haze in the cold air.
On the news front, of course most of you will probably know that Virgin are keeping the West Coast Franchise for another 2 years. Not that this was a suprise given the government had backed themselves into a corner and left that the only option. Cue legal action this time from First Group I suspect. It looks like Virgin's class 57s (or at least the ones not yet with Network Rail or DRS) are going to be going to DRS permanently. This probably makes sense as they always seem to be on the look out for ETS fitted locos, but also being based at Carlisle they are conveniently located on the route to be hired should Virgin still have the need for one to drag a class 390.

57302 and 57309, fairly fresh in DRS colours and named 'Pride of Crewe' and 'Chad Varrah' were at Preston last night (Thursday) waiting to be taken up to Carlisle Friday morning by a Virgin driver who was then bringing a couple more back down to Crewe, presumably for repainting. 57307 'Lady Penelope' was at the DRS depot the other week. Having taken over 150 pictures of Virgin class 57/3 in the last 10 years, it'll be nice to get some shots of them in different colours!

Well, I think that's enough for this edition, writing it is keeping me from cracking on with 2007's pictures! I hope to squeeze out another edition before Christmas, fingers crossed for a bit of snow and sun for a spot of winter photography. Thanks for reading. With talk of 'Genting Clubs', here's a picture showing the interesting combination of services offered in a building nearby to the excellent Fox and Crown pub in Old Basford, Nottingham (highly recommended not only for its beers from the neighbouring Alcazar brewery, but also for its Thai Food). Bye for now!

Sunday 25 November 2012

33: Fife, Fatalities and Four Twenties

Welcome to edition 33 of the Railwaymedia blog.
Since edition 32 I have only been out with the camera twice, and the first of these was really just a case of a couple of pictures whilst passing. Work has also precluded me continuing with my reprocessing of older pictures over the last few weeks, although hopefully with 3 weeks of night turns coming up I can crack on in earnest with this and complete those from 2006.
The first of my two trips this month was just a brief visit to Fife to visit my sister, and also a couple of Wetherspoons. It also enabled me to travel on the last bit of the 'Fife Circle' that I haven't managed to do previously, the section from Dunfermline to Glenrothes. Glenrothes with Thornton station should be more accurately named 'Thornton nowhere near Glenrothes' as it is a good 20 minute bus ride from the station to the town. Thornton Junction used to be a very busy railway centre, indeed you can still see the remains of the massive yard next to the line between Thornton and Cardenden. There is currently a small amount of coal still produced in the area, but in general Thornton now only sees 3 passenger trains an hour to Edinburgh, one via Dunfermline and two via Kirkcaldy.
Fortunately for once, this week a day off coincided with nice weather. The North West hasn't suffered the brunt of the recent deluges that much of the south has, but a visit to Leicestershire showed some very swollen rivers, especially the Soar arround Barrow and Loughborough. An early start due to the lack of direct trains from Preston to Nuneaton meant I was at Hinckley just as the sun was rising. This was fortuitous as it meant not only could I take a picture of the westbound Toton to West Hampstead RHTT circuit before the sun appeared on the wrong side of the train, but also get it returning eastwards 30 minutes later just after the sun had appeared over the houses. 
Formed of two Euro Cargo Rail class 66's repatriated from France for the Rail Head Treatment season, it is over 7 years since I last photographed 66223 and the other, 66062, is one I have never pictured before. Ironically as I was photographing these French locos in England in nice sunshine, my friend Richard Stiles was in France, in the pouring rain, for the last day of the BB16000 locomotives on the Paris to Amiens services. I had been given by the wife a belated 'pass' to go with him but I think maybe I made the right decision for once by staying in this country.
Following breakfast in Hinckley, as I boarded the next service to Leicester I found out there was disruption between there are Loughborough (my intended destination) due to a fatality. I changed my plans and caught the bus to Cossington, reasoning that the problem would be cleared up by the time I reached there. It turned out though the fatality had actually happened at the foot crossing adjacent to the bridge I was heading to and it was cordoned off by the police when I arrived. Fortunately there is another bridge to the south, although much busier with traffic, from which I was able to photograph two southbound freights before returning to the first bridge once the cops had left.
Although there is a regular procession of class 222 'Meridians' on the fast line and an hourly HST on the Nottingham fast services, the slow lines were very quiet with only the two southbound and one northbound freights in over 2 hours. However, a noise in the distance heralded something more interesting, which transpired to be the four class 20s, with their two barrier wagons, that are used to move London Underground's S-Stock, heading from Old Dalby back to Barrow Hill for the weekend. With the two GBRF liveried examples trailing, for once I also took a going-away shot.
It looks like the foot crossing may get closed following the fatality as a Highway Department crew turned up a bit later to shut off access to it. To be fair, the foot crossing is a bit pointless given the proximity of the bridge. I had intended to take a couple of shots from it but as the fields either side were so wet decided against it. I have only ever taken one shot before from there, back in 2004: it was only really useful anyway for zoom shots of trains on the Fast Lines.
With the line being so quiet I called it a day a bit early and headed onto Loughborough finally for a few beers. In hindsight I wish I had left more time to have a look at the Brush Factory there to see if anything of interest was visible outside; in the end I only got to the station at dusk, though as I got there Anglia's 170206 emerged heading back to Norwich after a bogie overhaul.
When the local stopping services were re-introduced between Leicester and Loughborough in 1993, the line was branded the 'Ivanhoe Line'. Whilst I can't find any reference to this branding now in any East Midlands Trains literature, it would appear operationally the name is still used, judging by both old and new stop signs half way down platform 4 at Leicester, so I'll leave you with a picture of these. As mentioned earlier, hopefully I shall plod on with my picture re-processing over the next 3 weeks. I would like to also try to get out this week if work permits to maybe track down a couple more Rail Head Treatment Trains in what will probably be their last week or so of operation for this year. As always, thanks for taking the trouble to read this blog, bye for now.

Monday 5 November 2012

32: A Jolly Boys Outing and a Jolly Anglian Tour

Yet again welcome to the Railwaymedia blog, edition 32 this time, and covering the two trips I have made over the last 2 weeks, plus anything else I can think of!
Following my trip to Cardiff documented in blog number 31, 6 days later I was almost back in Wales again, attending a bit of a Jolly Boys Outing (though unlike Del Boy not involving Margate, Jellied Eels and exploding Plaxton Elite bodied Ford coaches). Actually looking up what the coach used was in the Only Fools and Horses episode, it amused me that this WEBSITE confirms the coach was bought outright rather than 'hired'. Just as well given the plot!
Anyway, once in a while we have an outing somewhere to descend en-mass on a few unsuspecting photographic locations, the area chosen this time being to the East of Bristol. Chris Perkins kindly picked me up from Bristol Parkway and we started off at Pilning Station.
As can be seen, it was a somewhat murky day, though I was still quite pleased with the hour or so we spent there. My previous visit to the station had coincidently also been made between night shifts back in April 2010, though that had been a lovely sunny day. Despite the total gloom, shots of trains climbing up from the Severn Tunnel can still be worthwhile. Don't try getting to Pilning by train however as only 2 trains a week stop, both on a Saturday. There is however an hourly bus from Parkway station to Pilning village. Currently this is the 625 operated by Wessex Connect.
The great advantage of being with someone who has a car (most of my trips are done by public transport even to the obscure places I normally reach), and especially someone with local knowledge, is getting to visit locations I wouldn't have been aware of or would be nigh-on impossible to get to. In the case of Westerleigh Oil Terminal this fitted into both those categories.
We were lucky (or more the case it was well planned by Chris) to arrive just as one was due to depart and one arrive. With the outward train not yet formed we were going to leave when some activity suggested the inward working was on its way. Duly 5 minutes later it appeared.
The next stage was for the other class 60 on the empty tanks to Lindsey to depart, it left about 30 minutes late, and there followed another half hour or so of shunting with 60079 to get its full wagons into the discharge point. All in all a productive and interesting hour.
The light, and temperature, was falling fast. We moved a few miles away to Ram Hill near Coalpit Heath, a narrow footbridge over the mainline between Parkway and where the Birmingham and Didcot lines diverge. Whilst the light and trees would have made photography difficult had the sun been out, needless to say this particular day it wasn't a problem. I was pleasantly suprised how much freight runs along the line, in fact in the whole area, though after a couple of coal trains, a Freightliner, lots of HSTs and a stone working we decided to call it a day.
All in all a good day out despite the weather. Many thanks to Chris for the tour.
Last week I was on holiday from work, but coinciding with the school half term I was a bit limited in time to get out with my camera. I managed a full day though on the Tuesday. Eagerly watching the weather Monday night for inspiration as to where to go, the south looked far better in terms of the chance of any sun, Kent looked best. Although I still need to visit a few Wetherspoons in that county, I fancied taking some pictures of more interesting workings than 375s and 395s. My next idea was Southend to get shots of the Pier Railway, amongst other things. It was pretty much on the bus to the station that morning though that I changed my mind and plumped for the Ipswich area.
One of the main reasons for this was the need for something to do once it goes dark, which of course it  does stupidly early now that the clocks have gone back (thanks a lot farmers). Being three branches of that well known pub chain in Ipswich I reasoned I could get round them all before my train back to London. I decided then to head along the line towards Bury St Edmunds during the day. I actually missed the train at Ipswich I intended to catch as 86501 emerged from the yard just as it was to depart. With another service only 40 minutes later though, it was fortuitous as I got a few shots in that time of passenger trains as well as this one of 66746 heading for Hams Hall.
I hadn't visited Bury St Edmunds, a lovely old Cathedral Town, for many years, though it was literally just a fleeting visit in order to have a quick pint and get back to the station for a shot of the next unit heading east. There was also a freight due, though that didn't appear until I was on the train myself and needless to say I passed it enroute to my next stop at Elmswell.
Thanks to Marcus Dawson and his East Anglia Trainspots Book, I was aware of a small farm crossing just west of Elmswell. I had also considered a crossing on the main Norwich line north of Stowmarket for the extra variety I would get there, class 90s on the Passengers plus potentially the North Walsham tank train, but given the low sun now in an afternoon Elmswell seemed a better option despite the smaller amount of booked trains passing. The light would have been wrong for the local Rail Head Treatment Train there anyway. So, a visit to the village Co-op for a sandwich and some beer and I had a pleasant 3 hours stood by a field, most of the time in sunshine.
There are a couple of RHTTs based at Stowmarket, though only one works during daylight. This circuit goes south to Witham, then covers the Clacton-on-Sea branch before returning to Stowmarket and then onto Norwich via Ely. I had passed it in the morning whilst I was enroute to Ipswich and could see it was being hauled by a DRS class 57. What I wasn't aware was that the other end was an ex-Virign, now Network Rail, yellow class 57/3. Sods law of course that when it passed me the DRS one leading so the 57/3 and the 'squirty' bit of the wagons were at the rear.
Knowing I would just miss the hourly train to Ipswich by the time I walked back to the station, I waited here for the last of the light, and then sauntered back. This though meant that visiting the three Wetherspoons in Ipswich became a rushed job, not helped by how far the city centre actually is from the station. Probably the most walking and drinking I have crammed into an hour in my life! All in all a good day though, if a day off in the next few weeks falls when sunny weather is predicted in that area I may be tempted to head back to get some more shots of this particular RHTT working.
A quick aside to Blackpool and its Trams again, the last week several of the old, but modified, Balloon trams have been in operation. I only found out this when enroute with the family to the illuminations Wednesday evening and, short of missing the family trip the following day to Edinburgh for them (which wouldn'tve gone down well), the next chance for me to get across was the Saturday. Now you would think that on the final (half-term) weekend of the Illuminations they would have been out then too, but Blackpool Transport obviously didn't. Now I didn't bother to go across in the end, but I'm guessing the Flexity trams will have been rather full. Well done BT! Up to date news on the operations on the tramway can be found on the Blackpool Tram Blogspot.
That concludes the résumé of my last two weeks wanderings; as always thanks for taking the time to read them. This editions 'Stupid Sign' picture is from the unstaffed Pilning station. It would seem by the dirt on it that noone wants to steal the top 'Passengers Must Not Cross the Line' sign, but I'm not sure if the actual target is only the new looking one below, or whether it is both that AND the equally new looking one advising you not to steal them! Bye for now, please look out for edition 33!

Monday 22 October 2012

31: Taff, Trams and Tundra

Hello, welcome to another edition of the Railwaymedia Blog, up to number 31 now.
I've only been out and about with my camera twice since I published Edition Number 30, Friday to Cardiff and yesterday a quick nip over to Blackpool. The links will take you to all the pictures, but if you want a quick résumé of exactly where I ended up and why, then please read on!
With yesterday, Sunday, being a lovely sunny day in the North West, I decided to have a trip over to Blackpool. On mild autumnal evenings it is always a pleasure to spend some time on the quiet end of Blackpool's Promenade north of the Metropole Hotel up towards Bispham and Cleveleys. It is just under a year since the end of the traditional operation of the Blackpool Tramway, 6th November 2011 being the day it closed for the final refurbishment to allow the new low-floor service.
Now of course there is an excellent 10-15 minute frequency operated by the new Flexitiy Trams, also at weekends a half-hourly 'Heritage' tour service. I had hoped to get a few shots of these but hadn't realised that during the Illuminations the old trams only come out to play at night! So in the end yesterday I just had a walk along the front with my two daughters, got a few pictures, and then spent about an hour, and a few quid, having to play on the 2p machine in Bispham Amusements.
The tramway is not nearly as interesting though as it was 12 months ago. Having got a picture of Flexity number 016 yesterday, I have finally shots of all the new vehicles so, unfortunately, there is little point me returning unless they start applying overall advertising to the vehicles.
Well, now I've got the tram bit of the blog out the way, back to Fridays trip to Wales...
A day out somewhere had been planned for the day, though I left it until the night before to decide where. I recieved an email containing a picture of Arriva Train Wales' class 121 on the Cardiff Bay shuttle Thursday morning. This 50 year old unit has been out of service for some time requiring new wheels, so its return to operation swung it for me to visit Cardiff; I hadn't seen that particular class 121 and also I've never travelled over the short Cardiff Bay Branch. I still haven't travelled it either as enroute to Barry for breakfast in Wetherspoons, I saw the 121 was parked on Canton depot.
Barry signalbox, pictured above, will be surviving for around another 2 years as resignalling is under way on the Vale of Glamorgan line from here to Bridgend. This line was reinstated for passenger use 7 years ago and after a swift breakfast I caught the next train over this section; another new line for me. I rather wish I had jumped off at Rhoose for an hour as it was sunny and there appeared to be an empty coal train waiting to leave Aberthaw Power Station as I passed.
Returning to Cardiff Central, the first train that came into platform 6, the Valley Line platform, was bound for Rhymney. Being a line I've done many times when there used to be regular class 37 hauled services on Saturdays, I went one stop to Queen Street and then boarded the following Coryton train, that being one of the many branches to the north of Cardiff that I haven't previously visited.
The line is under 3 miles long and in that distance manages to cram in 6 stations. Is this a record on Network Rail? The view above is taken from just before Coryton station and shows behind one of the three stations in the country to be called Whitchurch. I'd walked to this bridge after alighting the previous train at Rhiwina, the stop beyond, which would also be visible if it wasn't for the A470 road bridge. Currently trains from Coryton extend beyond Cardiff via the 'City Line' to terminate at Radyr. Radyr is only just over a mile away as the crow flies on the other side of the River Taff from Coryton, so it would probably be quicker to walk than catching the train taking 42 minutes!
I alighted on the return at Birchgrove which seemed to be the nearest station to the Heath branch of Wetherspoons. It was, but a longer walk than between about 4 Coryton Line stations would be. It appears I was lucky not to be run over as there was a bloke driving round Cardiff at that time in a white van knocking down pedestrians. I didn't hear anything about this until I got home, despite spending the next 2 hours having a few pints in several of the central Cardiff Wetherspoons.
With the Cardiff Bay shuttle (above) being rather over-provided for with a class 150, and time pressing, I forwent the trip there in order to do another branch I needed, Penarth. The Wetherspoons where I planned to have tea is about half way between Penarth and the previous stop Dingle Road. Like on the Coryton Line these two stations are very close together, and indeed the branch is only a mile in length, though with a 15 minute frequency trains don't spend long at the terminus.
The last time I had gone down to South Wales, a trip to Newport mentioned in Blog Number 19, I had caught the 'WAG Express' down from Crewe and photographed it on the return working, the 1615 Cardiff to Holyhead. Since September however the workings of it have been altered. The morning journey, inconveniently for me at least, goes via Wrexham instead of Crewe. The afternoon service also goes that route but has been retimed to depart Cardiff much later at 1821.
Being later this is also no good for me to photograph the train, it being of course dark at this time of the year, but also because the Manchester train half an hour later is the last I can realistically catch home. Still, instead I was able to ride it back to Chester, though being a Friday it was very busy. The previous formation of a Mk3 First Class (with Buffet), two Open Standards and a half Standard with Brake Van, has now changed to the same First Class coach but with two Mk3 Standards and a DVT. This has in effect reduced capacity for normal passengers to about that of a class 158.
 I did though get a shot of it arriving Cardiff in the morning. It's interesting that where Chiltern are saying using locos is now more cost effective for them than units for operating trains with 7 or more coaches, Arriva Trains Wales have actually reduced the capacity and, if it wasn't for the First Class restaurant service provided basically for the Members of Parliament that use it, a two or three car class 175 would be more than enough and more practical. It isn't often you will hear me arguing against the use of locos and coaches, but for me the economics just doesn't add up for this train.
So, after that contentious point, I shall bring this edition of the blog to a close. There are still quite a few branches (lines and Wetherspoons) in the Valleys that I haven't yet been to. Off the top of my head they are Maesteg, Treherbet, Merthyr and Ebbw Vale (also of course Cardiff Bay), so a return visit may well be made soon, though a few of the pubs appear to be off the railway network.
As always I shall leave you with this weeks stupid sign. Regular readers will know through work I spend quite a bit of time at Crewe, though normally at night. Being there during daylight yesterday for a change I noticed this newly erected sign at the entrance to the former Diesel Depot. I've long held the belief that Crewe exists in some sort of Arctic micro-climate (certainly feels that way sometimes), but is the proof that it is actually built on Tundra. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday 16 October 2012

30: Galas, Gronks and Gateboxes

A warm welcome to Edition number 30 of the Railwaymedia blog, documenting the updates and trips that I have made over the last 2 weeks or so since Edition 29 was posted. As I had a few weeks of night turns to do at work, I wasn't expecting to get out and about very much after my trip to London, but in the end I managed a few pictures from both two local North West Diesel Galas and also from a pleasant afternoon photographing the freight trains around Warrington.

  As usual when I am working nights, I spend some time processing older pictures, carrying on with plodding through my collection of bus photographs from the 1990s. Having finally done all the pictures from my time spent working with various companies on the South Coast (the final selection I have more or less completed now is the former Southdown companies of Sussex Coastline and South Coast Buses), I have now moved backwards to my student days in Yorkshire.
I have literally only just started doing the pictures from this area, but images such as that above of an old coach working a local Halifax to Huddersfield service illustrates just how much more interesting (in my opinion anyway!) vehicles were back then. Every company in the area had an ecclectic mix of buses dating back to National Bus Company and West Yorkshire PTE days.
 I have an annual beer 'festival' for a few friends at my house and for the second year running this coincided with the local Ribble Steam Railway's Autumn Diesel Gala. The promised nice weather on Saturday morning wasn't quite as good as forecast but the Sunday dawned clear so a few shots (no hangover) were taken of the variety of shunters hauling the lines coaching stock.
The resident Class 05 and Class 03 always look good, but for me the star was the use of their ex-Dutch Railways Class 11. As the coaches are vacuum braked only and the Class 11 is air-braked, a modification has been made to the 'control' coach to enable air braked engines to be used on the western end of the train. This also meant the first use of the ex-Preston Council Sentinel shunters that normally only provide power for the thrice weekly tank train that serves the docks.
There were around 65 of the Class 11s built in Britain for Nederlandse Spoorwegen by English Electric, the first 10 of which were put together within 1/2 mile of the line at the Dick Kerr Works on Strand Road in Preston. Unfortunately, the one pictured below was from the second batch that was built slightly further away at the Vulcan Foundary at Newton-le-Willows.
Two days later and, with another nice day promising, I ended up in Warrington to get some of the regular freight trains running to and from Fiddlers Ferry Power Station. It is a line that I have covered many times in the last year or two as it has by far the best mix and frequency of freight trains in the North West, Blog 12 was probably the last time I covered a visit in depth here.
I had two main aims of the day. Number one was simply to get some pictures for me to process. A new computer (long overdue), and more significantly a new screen with it, has meant me having to get to grips with the fact pictures now appear both lighter and sharper, and therefore making it harder to get corrections right whilst processing the files. The second aim was to get some shots of the signals that protect Latchford Sidings where the trains run round at Warrington.
 This is something I have intended to do for some time and, despite it being a very busy road bridge, it isn't too bad a place to wait. I spent a couple of hours walking between this bridge and the one (just beyond the rear of the train) at Arpley Junction. If the trains run more or less to time, or you know when they are coming, it is possible to get two shots of each working.
There have been a lot of changes to the signalling on this line lately with, in July, the abolishment of the Crossing Signalboxes at Crosfields and Litton's Mill (both inside the soap works adjacent to Warrington Bank Quay station) and the replacement of their semaphore signals with colour lights. I had planned for ages to get the classic shot at Crosfields but never got round to it. On the day mentioned in blog 12 when I saw 60099 at Sankey, Neil Harvey took this Picture of the same train. I couldn't have joined him though as I didn't have my stepladder with me on that occasion!
So onto this week and the second Diesel Gala in two weekends, this time it being the turn of the East Lancashire Railway. I hadn't actually visited the line for almost 2 years, actually the 2010 Autumn Diesel Gala, though with around 140 pictures from the railway over the last 6 years or so, most engines and locations have been well covered. All my ELR photographs are HERE.
My main targets this time was for 24081 (D5081) which I haven't seen for almost 20 years when it was based at Steamport in Southport, and for the Class 14 'Teddy Bear' D9531. The Saturday I was working and on the Sunday the class 14 was only booked to work one trip to Heywood in the morning so, in lovely autumnal sunshine, I set off over the hills. The only place I could go for a shot of it was Heap Bridge between Bury and Heywood and I arrived there in thick fog.
Still, the loco sounded very good slogging uphill, though it was a shame there seemed to be less than a dozen people on the train, and no other photographers, to benefit from it. Needless to say given the weather I decided to move back up the valley to where it was distinctly sunnier in order to get a few more shots. There being a Steam Gala taking place at the nearby Keighley and Worth Valley Railway probably explained why there were only a handful of photographers out and about; my other aim, the Class 24, I photographed twice, firstly heading north at Ewood Bridge and then again as it headed back down the valley, seen approaching Summerseat, before I had to head off to work.
Well, that concludes my wanderings for the last couple of weeks. I hope to be able to get out somewhere this week, though where I go will probably be highly dependant on the weather. As normal I shall conclude with this editions 'stupid sign', though it is actually a billboard poster from the local Preston 'Newspaper'. I have generally speaking a fairly low regard for most journalists, especially those working as editors on papers like the Lancashire Evening Post, who never seem to let the truth get in the way of either a good story nor a dramatic headline. As you can imagine there were a few letters delivered late, and indeed some inconvenience, but 'Chaos' is overdoing it slightly!
Thanks for reading, please look again in a few weeks for Edition number 31. Bye for now!