Thursday 21 June 2012

20: Sun, Sea, Stone Trains and Sheds

Welcome again to the Railwaymedia Blog, now in its twentieth edition. Another two weeks or so have passed since the last blog, principally due to the annual family holiday; in fact it has been over 3 weeks between my last foray out pointing my camera at trains and this week.

The family holiday was a week on the beautiful Greek Island of Kefalonia. This was our 4th visit since our first trip there 12 years ago and we still love the laid back atmosphere of the island. The Islands main town of Argostoli has under 10,000 inhabitants and nowhere on the island is over-built. Obviously it is a train-free island, although a new addition is a 'dotto' train in the capital!

It was back to work on nights and with the nice weather since we returned (don't know what all the fuss about wind and rain was whilst I was away) I took advantage of an easy job one night to have a day out in the car. 60099 in Tata Steel silver was allocated to the Preston to Lindsey tank train on Wednesday so I drove across to Todmorden in Yorkshire to photograph it. It can quite often run an hour early, which it didn't, so I had almost a 2 hour wait above Horsfall Tunnel for it to appear.

I had thought of driving back to get the Clitheroe Cement train but by the time 60099 had passed it was too late. The Keighley and Worth Valley Railway are now operating an all week steam service for the summer, so I went across the moors from Hebden Bridge to Haworth. Resident diesels 08266 and 37075 were parked outside the shed to photograph in the sun, after which I went exploring locally to find a location for a picture of the midday steam working from Keighley.

Despite the K&WVR being less than an hours drive from my home I have only visited it once before for photography, so I'm not really familiar with too many open spots on this fairly tree-lined line. I discovered a limited shot near Mytholmes tunnel which I thought would do me fine, though the sun decided to dip and, of course, the engine had no visible steam eminating from it...

As forecasted the cloud was rolling in at dinner time so the smell of a fish and chip shop opposite Ingrow Station lured me in. And VERY nice it was too. As it was freshly cooked I took it in the car up to Cononley to eat it where I could watch the trains go past. As I neared Skipton later on the way across to Hellifield looking for locations I caught a lucky glimpse of a northbound stone train which I guessed would probably be heading for Rylstone north of Skipton.

The former Grassington Branch is a line I've not photographed before, mainly as I've never known what time the trains run on it, so the opportunity of getting a picture was too good to miss. The trains have to run round at Skipton as the branch junction faces east, leaving me plenty of time to find a location; indeed with the slow speed of the line I managed two shots, one near Flasby Moor and a second as it approached the quarry. It being dull helped though with the locations.

Having not had any sleep since the night before, and it becoming even more overcast, I headed back along the A59 to Preston with the intention of going home, however I decided enroute to check out a location near Ramsgreave in Blackburn I have also never done before. Quite why I had never tried to find the bridge I don't know as it turned out to be an excellent location for the two freights that run along the line mid-afternoon. By the time the second of these, the Chirk log train, came over the summit of the gradient at the top of Cemetrey Bank the sun was shining again.

Well that's a quite comprehensive account of Wednesday's wanderings. As previously mentioned it has been the only day out in the last 3 weeks, and will be the only British-based one for a couple more as next week is the now annual photographic outing, this year to Hungary. Edition number 21 will no doubt cover this trip equally in depth: I hope you will look out for it in about 2 weeks time.

To finish off I'll leave you with the essential family picture from the best named village on Kefalonia!

Sunday 3 June 2012

19 (Part II): Steam, South Wales and Shap

Welcome to Part 2 of Blog number 19. Due to the good weather we've had recently (which has now disappeared), I had a big backlog of pictures to process which in turn delayed writing the blog. If you missed part 1, please follow the links on the right to June 2012 or click HERE.

Following the rather long day spent in Northamptonshire, I had an easy day at work on the Wednesday, and on the Thursday had to make a quick trip to Edinburgh. Seeing a lot of people wielding cameras standing on the suburban stations on the approach to Edinburgh made me wonder if there was a special train about, and indeed as I arrived at Waverley a class 66 was approaching from the opposite direction with the LNER A4 'Bittern' in steam on the rear .

I wandered up the car park to see if there was any possible chance of a shot as it was leaving, and found just one other photographer standing on a large lump of concrete to get height above the fence. Rarely do you manage such luck, as I got this shot of it leaving and was still on my train home just 25 minutes after arriving. I'm not the greatest fan of East Coast engines, be it Deltic's, A4's or replica Tornado's, but I must admit Bittern did look impressive pulling away on its old line.

With the weather still sunny I went out in the car after work to Charnock Richard. Whilst this is a bridge on the electrified West Coast Main Line, the wires are not too obtrusive, although the trees overhanging the old slow lines are starting to restrict the shots. This is my first shot of an 11-car Pendolino, though the tree hides the extra length. This train had disgraced itself failing at Weedon two days earlier and indeed this working got terminated at Watford due to a train fault.

The regular Scotland to Fiddlers Ferry coal train had failed at Hellifield with the class 70 overheating, which in turn delayed the other two regular freights that take that route between Carlisle and Wigan, namely the 6K05 Departmental and 6J37 Log Train. The steam engine 'Princess Elizabeth' with its support coach was also running late heading north to Hellifield, (presumably in connection with the tour 'Bittern' was heading), so I calculated I would have time to photograph, enroute to Brock for 'Lizzie', the Log Train at Mintholme near Hoghton. This is a new spot for me for this train, and was only really possible with the sun at the correct angle due it running 60 minutes late.
As I arrived at Brock, Princess Elizabeth was approaching Preston where her driver decided she needed a drink, so it was another hour or so wait until it came past. By this time there were clouds springing up, and indeed when I recieved word that it was leaving the loop at Broughton 3 miles south of where I was, a cloud moved over the sun. However it cleared in the nick of time, and also stayed clear for the southbound DRS Nuclear Flask train which passed 5 minutes later.

It's not often I photograph even one steam train in a day so to get two, both in full sun and without being surrounded by hundreds of other photographers, was quite unusal. And that was it for the weekend, which was mainly taken up working. Last Tuesday however I decided to go for a decent trip out again. I had a couple of places I was interested to visit, and the best forecast the night before was for South Wales. I headed out to Crewe intending to catch the 0711 to Newport, but on the way realised that 30 minutes or so after this the faster Arriva Trains Wales 'WAG Express' was due.

This class 67 hauled train was my main photographic target for the afternoon, but a ride on it was worth the 12 minute later arrival at Newport. Amazingly this train runs non-stop from Shrewsbury to Newport and is an excellent way to make the journey. You can even order a full breakfast at the buffet and the steward will deliver it on a proper plate, with proper cutlery, to your seat. A shame I had already got muself a sandwich from a shop at Crewe! 

My first location to visit was Magor on the main line between Newport and Severn Tunnel Junction. The original plan was to get the Newport Transport service 62 which is infrequent and takes about 50 minutes, however I worked out Stagecoach run hourly direct so went for that route instead. Newport's day ticket is good value at £3.50, and I needed one of those anyway for later, but reckoned it wouldn't be too much for a return on the Stagecoach bus. Wrong -  it was almost £6!!!

I had an enjoyable 3 hours at Magor, with a couple of freight trains passing by and a procession of HSTs, class 158s and 150s. The latter class, operated by both Arriva Trains Wales and First Great Western, tend to be on the hourly trains to Cheltenham and also the ones to Bristol and beyond. After Bristol these go to a variety of destinations, including Weston-super-Mare, Taunton, Exeter and even Penzance! Ex-London Midland 150102, seen above and up until recently used on Birmingham local services, started it's journey at Penzance at 0600, and 6 hours later when it passed me  Cardiff was still another 25 minutes away. I hope noone had to make the whole journey on it.

I used the return portion of my expensive Stagecoach ticket to get back to Newport where I had an hour or so visiting the local Wetherspoons. There are actually four in the town, which seems rather a lot. It was worth though a quick diversion to see this Andrew Barclay old industrial shunting engine which is 'plinthed' by the river opposite the bus station. I'm told it was delivered new to the Newport Tinplate Company at Abercarn near Caerphilly and spent its final years at British Steel's Ebbw Vale plant. If the wagon looks like it has been derailed, its funny angle is actually because it's wooden chassis has unfortunately totally collapsed on the other side.

My next destination was Ponthir, which is on the line between Newport and Cwmbrân, to photograph the return WAG Express. This was a place the RPG Photographic group had visited on their previous day out which I'd been unable to attend. The forecast had been for clouds in the afternoon  but quite amazingly it stayed sunny whilst I spent a pleasant hour sat overlooking this fantastic location.

Newport Transport service 28 runs twice an hour to Caerleon and stops near the bridge in the background, but the hourly 29 crosses it to Ponthir itself, and onto Cwmbrân, which was my way to get to the station for the train home. Another quick pint in the Wetherspoons there, and an hour for some tea in their branch at Leominster, finished of another good day. The days pictures are HERE.

So, finally, I've caught up with both my picture processing. A week of nights at work beckons now before a week on holiday so there may again be a bit of a break before I get to write edition 20.. As I promised on Blog Number 18, an update on the '92012-watch'. Well, last week it was still dumped at Shap Summit on an increasingly rusty siding. Will it make 3 months there?! Thanks for reading.


19 (Part I): More Blackpool, German Beer and Long Buckby

Welcome at a belated 19th edition of the Railwaymedia Blog.

Over the last two weeks or so I've been out photographing a few times, after all it could well be the last spell of nice weather this summer! On top of that the nice weather has delayed the processing of the pictures and therefore the blog. Still, it's a Bank Holiday, and it is raining, so time to catch up.

Carrying on from Blog number 18 and my May Bank Holiday trip to see how the Blackpool Tramway was performing, I made two more trips to The Fylde during the month. First was mainly in connection with a Skegness to Blackpool excursion. I photographed it at Kirkham Tip on the way to the resort, though the promised sun hadn't yet made an appearance. It was booked about 4 hours stay so I got a few tram pictures and the obligatory class 142s on the Blackpool South line, before waiting for the tour to return. 47826 in Scarborough Flyer livery was leading, seen here near Weeton.

I had to return home after this passed, but then got a call to say a Colas 47 was dragging a Merseyrail class 507 north to Wabtec at Kilmarnock. The children were dragged through the teatime traffic to nearby Farington where I was hopeful it would appear on the Slow Line. A late running northbound Pendolino meant it didn't. Oh well, at least it got the kids out the house.

The following Monday, with the weather again beautiful, I was in need of some beer so thought I'd have a wander over to Blackpool again. A combined bus and tram ticket is only £3.50 if bought at local PayPoint shops, though bizarrely £4.50 if purchased on buses. I caught first a train from Preston heading to Blackpool and as it stopped at Poulton decided to get off there to catch the bus to Knott End to have a first beer in the rather pleasant village. I've been meaning for some time to use the short Ferry crossing from there to Fleetwood, and with perfect timing at the other end for the tram that stops opposite the ferry terminal I had been on 4 different modes of transport in a row.

I then got stuck in Wetherspoons at Cleveleys for an hour or two. Well, it was lovely and sunny and I got a table outside to watch the world go buy and drink Erdinger, so I decided to stay for a bit. The trams were running spot on time so I had a ride back to Fleetwood before returning to Cleveleys, and then to Blackpool, for the train home. Obviously it was 'Normal Operating Conditions'!

The following day was an outing to Northamptonshire for a photographic group I'm a member of, which conveniently coincided with me needing to visit Northampton with work, so later in the day I met up with them. In perfect sunny weather we visited a few locations around Long Buckby that I had never been to before. Whilst I did get a lift to these it would be possible to walk to at least one of them from Long Buckby station so I may return one day. One that does need to be reached by bus though is the field near Church Brampton, which is seen below.

With beautiful weather and the landscape dominated by yellow Rape Seed fields it was a very pleasant afternoon and early evening spent lineside whilst the West Coast Main Line slowly disintegrated. Mid afternoon a couple of Pendolino's came past us diverted from the usual Weedon route because of a failed train, then later on several came north as well, this time due to signalling problems. The last train that was diverted was 1S96, the Willesden to Shieldmuir mail train.

With a person 'in the know' giving me updates on what was running, we held on until the very last light for 70020 on a northbound liner. This too got later and later as it was being delayed by local London Midland trains that themselves were late as, by this point, a power failure had shut half of London Euston so the whole timetable was in chaos. 

With the last train from London to Preston stopping at Rugby I did at least know I would get home eventually, somehow, so after waiting quite a long time at Long Buckby for a London Midland stopping train to turn up, I took the long walk into Rugby town centre from its station and waited in the Wetherspoons there for my train home to be due. Of course the great advantage of having internet on your mobile phone is that I could see it hadn't even left London yet so all I could do was relax with more bottles of Erdinger and keep an eye on it's progress. I was still in Rugby at ten to eleven and eventually arrived at home about 1am. All in all it was an excellent day out with a good range of photos and good company. The pictures of the day can be found HERE.

I'll leave you with the group picture from the RPG outing, courtesy of Chris Nevard. Thanks for reading. As I have been so busy lately and in order to prevent it getting too long this blog will continue in Part 2 covering my two more recent trips.