Tuesday, 3 April 2012

14: Sprinter Prototypes, Southampton Freight and Settle Diversions

Hello and 'Bienvenue' to the lastest Railwaymedia Blog.

With work and a fairly bad Head Cold, (or Hayfever or maybe even Man Flu?), preventing me getting out and about, it was a whole week between my jaunts out with my camera: from the Scottish trip documented in Blog number 13 to last Friday's trip to the south. Shame given the fantastic weather we have been having! Needless to say, this week the forecast is now for cloud, rain and even snow. With it also being School Holidays not much time will be available this week either.

But last Friday I did get out. With sunny weather forecast throughout the South I was torn between going to either Bath and Westbury or to Basingstoke and Reading. As I wasn't sure how the angle of the sun would be at this time of the year in th famous Sydney Gardens at Bath, I decided on the latter destination, hoping to get shots of the Prototype class 150s on the Basingstoke to Reading shuttles.

 
Lovely weather greeted me all the way down on the 0533 Pendolino from Preston and the 0820 from London, which being a train to Exeter was a pair of 159s; it seemed strange leaving Waterloo on a diesel unit. On reaching Hook, a mere 5 and a half miles from Basingstoke, this March sunshine turned into thick murky mist, which stubbornly refused to clear all morning. I caught the bus from outside Basingstoke station to Kempshott, which is a 15 minute walk from Worting Junction.

Having done shots at the footbridge overlooking the junction in the past, I decided to try for a shot at the Battledown flyover where the Up Line from Southampton to London crosses the Salisbury route. I had been warned there is a new fence and I might require stepladders to get a picture over it. I've yet to start lugging a pair of these round on my days out, I'd get funny looks in pubs if I did, so I went to the foot crossing nearer East Oakley which is located just where the Up and Down lines split.

 
A strange set up it is too with just enough room between the two crossings to stand safely. I had about an hour there; the bad light meaning at least I was able to take photographs in both directions. With that I headed back to Basingstoke. With only 10 minutes to wait until the next sprinter on a Reading train was due to leave, I wandered up the end of the platform for a shot of a London bound unit. Fortune, and the sun, smiled as it appeared racing the Halewood car train.

 
Then it was onto the prototype Sprinter 150001 for the trip north. There is a half hourly stopping service on the route to Reading and I used this to visit the three intermediate stops: Bramley, Mortimer and Reading West. In addition to the local service there is also one or two Cross Country Voyagers every hour and quite often two freights each hour too. It's a line that is well worth a visit. Currently off peak the local service is formed of two units, one a 150 and the other a 165, but later the Turbo is used elsewhere so both the unique 3-car Sprinters are booked to provide the service. 

 
 
As mentioned, the freight service is quite intense with a good variety of types of trains. Whilst mainly trains carrying deep-sea boxes to the port at Southampton, there are also car trains and departmental workings, with increasingly Freightliner's class 70s being seen, as seen above at Bramley.

 Both Bramley and Mortimer are nice little stations, but the last stop before Reading, Reading West, is just an urban halt and far less pleasant. Indeed, I had heard of a story of a 'train spotter' being attacked here a few years ago so was quite wary of hanging about, though having said that it felt no worse than many stations I've been to. The main advantage of the location is you get all the traffic heading south to Basingstoke plus any stone traffic heading west towards Westbury.

 
I pretty much called it a day after here and went for a few beers in Reading and Maidenhead. I was quite suprised to find Reading the much nicer town: I  had expected it to be the other way round, though I didn't venture down to the Thames at Maidenhead so a quick visit might not be doing that town justice. A full collection of the photographs I took this day can be found on my site HERE.

The next day, the Saturday, I was working and I hadn't realised I was booked on the one Virgin train of the week this year that is diverted over the Settle and Carlisle line. Normally I would look forward to this but, being the 1852 from Edinburgh so due off Carlisle at 2010, it was somewhat dark. Quite why this train is diverted I don't know as the London service 30 minutes earlier from Carlisle goes via the Main Line. Whilst for many years diversions this way have been a regular occurance, one Voyager a week is a far cry from a few years ago when during the 'divert season', most of Saturday and Sunday there was a train every 2 hours booked that way, many hauled by class 57s.

 
Well, I think thats enough for this blog. Today heralds the grand re-opening of the Blackpool Tramway with the preliminary 20 minute low-floor tram service starting in earnest tomorrow. I am hoping to get over there Thursday for some beer (and of course to photograph and report on it), so I'll let you know how I get on. Thanks as always for reading, all that remains to do is wish a Happy 40th Birthday to my wife; next year though I shan't use quite so many candles on the cake...


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