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!