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!