Sunday 15 January 2012

2: Cold Cumbria

Hello and welcome to the second edition of the Railwaymedia blog.
I've been a bit slow adding this one as I've been far too busy visiting pubs over the last couple of days and have only just got round to processing my pictures from a trip to Cumbria on Thursday.

The purpose of that day out was to see the new class 37 hauled 'commuter' train which is running between Carlisle and Sellafield. It's on a 6 week trial as a joint venture between DRS and Northern, so fingers crossed it continues after the 6 weeks as currently its a bit tricky to photograph. Maybe in a few weeks it will be light enough to get some decent shots further north up the coast. In the morning it runs in service right through to Barrow but in the afternoon it goes back empty stock to Sellafield to form the service onwards to Carlisle.

Anyway, the start of the day on Thursday for me was a 2 hour journey from Preston to Green Road on the 0522 to Carlisle via Barrow. The 156s are definately showing their age; though at least it was a toastie-hot ex Northern Spirit one rather than the (identical?) ex North Western ones which can be freezing. I remember travelling on one of those two years ago, when going to see the 'Floodexs' at Workington, that had ice on the INSIDE of the windows.

The trouble with it being so warm though was that getting off at a pre-dawn Green Road station then felt much colder: actually the temperature was reasonably mild for a January morning but the strong wind made it feel much worse. A glimpse of the moon at least indicated a possible breaking up of the clouds as it had been raining hard as we passed through Barrow. There was a train due in the other direction about 10 minutes after I arrived and with two passengers waiting for it, at what is a request stop, I decided to try a picture. I can't imagine many people have photographed the 0600 from Maryport here, especially not in the middle of January.

They may well be the ONLY 2 regular passengers at the station. Latest passenger statistics show 1,996 people using the station in a year. With there being no Sunday service, that means about 6 passengers using it a day counting both boarding AND alighting.
Unfortunately the light, even at 0835, wasn't quite strong enough for a decent shot of the 37, though only 20 minutes later it was reasonable enough for a shot of 37612 and 20309 on the Crewe to Sellafield Nuclear Flask train. I love Green Road as you can see trains coming along the other side of the estuary for more than ten minutes before they actually arrive. Even better when you can hear them coming too and they have English Electric engines!

I next got the train up to Whitehaven and visited the Wetherspoons there for some early dinner. With reference to my last blog: I wasn't going to pay the £5.30 the wanted for the Chilli Noodles and Chicken. You'd think it would be cheaper in the back of beyond as Whitehaven isn't exactly a major tourist area! Even with an early start I felt 11am was a little too early for their Curry Club.

Then I went to Seascale. Thursday is the day the Heysham flask train usually runs so I spent two hours in the sun sat by a footbridge, with beautiful sea views and a couple of bottles of Hoegaarden, in the hope they would turn up. I got all excited when I glimpsed in the distance Sellafield's Section Signal pulled off as it was almost perfect conditions for a good shot. Needless to say it wasn't the freight and it was just an empty class 153 unit that appeared.
I was a bit undecided what to do next. My original plan was to go to Foxfield for the class 37 returning with the empty stock, but with lovely light at Seascale and an open view meaning the sun would be out until literally sunset, I toyed with the idea of staying where I was. With the train due at 1630 I would've needed every last second of the sun being out though so went for my original plan and had a nice ride, on another 156, along the coast back to Foxfield. In my opinion this line is by far the most scenic in all Britain with sea on one side and mountains on the other. Below is the view from the train looking out towards the Isle of Man.

At Foxfield the excellent Prince of Wales brewpub is situated quite literally across the road from the station. Time for a quick pint in the pub before a 10 minute walk along a lane to a good location to wait for the 37 in the hope it would be a bit early and arrive before the sun went too low. I was getting excited as the sun was still comparably high in the sky so would definately be out when the train came... Well it was but clouds had arrived too. It meant that rather than use my zoom lens to get past the usual inconsiderably positioned sign I had to stick to my 50mm prime lens in order to get a reasonable shutter speed and aperture. The photo came out reasonably well though anyway. If the trial continues after the initial period I may be back there in 5 weeks.

Asthat was the last shot of the day it was time to retire back to the Prince of Wales for a few pints whilst admiring the stunning red sunset behind Foxfield signalbox. I had planned on visiting the Wetherspoons in Barrow before getting the X35 bus to Kendal for a pint in the one there, but the draw of Foxfield held me longer and it was just a quick one in Barrow before a class 185 home to Preston. Interesting comparison between the 153s and 156s I had been on all day and the 'new' 185. They are a lot better for passengers, brighter and cleaner, though as is common on trains now there were three automatic PA announcements within one minute of us departing Barrow.

Well that's the end of Blog number 2. If you want a look at all the pictures from the day they can be found HERE. .Please keep a look out for Blog number 3 which will be along when I think of anything else to say or wander anywhere else. Cheerio!



  1. Good new blog Mark - I'm followimg you now. Hopefully later this year I can do a tour of these lines.


  2. Thanks Chris. Fingers crossed the 37 will still be running when you get up!