Welcome as always to the Railwaymedia blog, a short one and obviously the last of 2014.
Following the last edition at the very start of the month I have been out a few times though not specifically for anything rail related. With a week off work I decided on a North Country 4 in 8 Rover which covers the area north of a line from Preston to Leeds and Hull up to Newcastle and Carlisle. As the name suggests it is valid for four days out of a maximum of eight; I knew from the start I would probably only get to use it for three days but it was still worth doing to try to visit most of the Wetherspoon pubs in the North-East, an area I've not covered too much in the past.
I had two days planned out initially, one to cover the Durham Coast south of Sunderland and the other to do a branch of Wetherspoons in Richmond then to do the line to Whitby which I have never travelled over. Which I did on what day all depended on a right time arrival in Newcastle from Carlisle as the Whitby schedule had only a five minute connection in order to get to Darlington. As I made easily the 1000 High Speed Train from Newcastle on day one that was what I did. There were a few delays heading south but the bus I had planned on catching was late too!
Richmond is about 14 miles from Darlington and has a good bus service during the day with the journey only taking 30 minutes and operating three times an hour. Time keeping on the route left a bit to be desired but as is common now since I resumed taking pictures of buses, I leave myself extra time in order to try to get some photographs whilst I am visiting places. Richmond itself is a nice town with a large Market Square (used normally as a car park). It was a pleasant place to visit on a dull wet December day though I can imagine it gets a bit busy with tourists in the summer.
I had about 45 minutes in total in Richmond which was enough time for a beer, a few bus pictures and to buy a couple of pies from a local bakery, before I returned to Darlington in order to get the train to Middlesbrough. I arrived at the station to find a Rail Head Treatment Train sat waiting in one of the bay platforms. The class 142 behind it was meant to be working the train I wanted but as it was blocked in by the class 37s the spare unit in the other platform had to be used instead.
There are three Wetherspoons in Middlesbrough. I had another 45 minutes between trains so only had time to visit the one nearest the station and to stock up with some beer for the 90 minute journey to Whitby. There is currently only four trains a day between Middlesbrough and Whitby although there is talk of more services being added. The 1404 from Middlesbrough was the last one I could catch: I could have returned on it to Middlesbrough but I would have only had 20 minutes in the town. Fortunately there is a good bus service linking Whitby hourly with Scarborough, it taking just over 60 minutes and, fortunately like the Darlington to Richmond service, provided by Arriva so I could utilise the same £7.50 day ticket. This is very reasonably priced as it covers all Arriva services from Scarborough in the south to Berwick in the north (and even west as far as Carlisle).
As can be seen it was dusk by the time I arrived in Whitby so the bus journey to Scarborough was in total darkness. I am sure Robin Hoods Bay is lovely to see in daylight but all I could tell, even sat at the front upstairs on the bus, was that there are few street lights there and that there is a very big hill to climb out of the village. The bus was obviously still geared for service in London where it started its life based at Edmonton rather than 1 in 5 climbs along the North Yorkshire coast!
After a rare weekend away with the wife in Edinburgh, the following week I managed a further two trips to the North East. All three trips were made by going out via Carlisle and returning via Leeds and with the Whitby trip boxed off the next on the agenda was to do the Wetherspoons south of Sunderland. Again this was mainly a drinking day with a few bus pictures and the odd railway shot too. Having missed a picture of it on the previous trip my first aim of the day was to photograph the DB Schenker additional postal service that is running daily up until Christmas. At this time of year it is only just getting light in Carlisle at 0800 but the newly repainted and named 90036 brightened things up a bit. Named after Jack Mills the driver of the train involved in the Great Train Robbery it is very appropriate that it should have been being used on a postal service.
First call of the day was Seaham. The old railway line to the docks is now a walking route from the station to the town centre. The harbour is still used for commerce although obviously no longer rail connected. A few rails and a memorial to the mining industry are nice touches.
Peterlee is not rail served either so it was a bus that I had to catch there. As I was going to use several bus operators I had to get a £9.50 North East Explorer Ticket. This shows what can be done to benefit passengers, very few areas ouside the former Metropolitan PTE areas have multi-operator tickets so unless you have a pensioners free pass you end up having to buy several expensive tickets to make a few journeys if they aren't all run by one company. Valid on everything except trains in roughly the same area as the Arriva day ticket I mentioned earlier this is also very good value.
After Peterlee it was on to Hartlepool. I had allowed myself an hour to visit the two Wetherspoons there and to get some bus pictures. My last visit to the town was in 1991 when the then local council company were still running a large fleet of elderly Bristol RE buses. I have a few pictures that I took that day of Hartlepool Transport which not long after got purchased by Stagecoach. The hour ended up being barely enough as I noticed a GBRF coal train was due through so I went for a picture of that just south of the station. I unfortunately just missed a pair of Balfour Beatty Class 20s.
By the time I got the train to Billingham the sun was starting to set. I used to have relatives in the town, which was the main reason for the visit to the North East in 1991. I don't remember much of the town from those days but the centre certainly appears to be a depressing place now. Billingham is not somewhere that is on my list of towns to revisit anytime soon!
The final of my three trips was two days later. The now customary journey on the 0828 from Carlisle to Newcastle was made. This starts from Dumfries nominally as a Scotrail service though using a Northern Rail class 156 unit. It is one of a handful of services that run through from the Glasgow and South Western route to the Tyne Valley line; most are Scotrail trains running from Glasgow Central to Newcastle but two 'Northern' ones start each morning at Dumfries. Despite being Northern crewed and operated this service shows up as being a Scotrail train on the electronic station boards.
This day was very much bus based as it was the only way to get to the towns north of Newcastle like Ashington and Blyth. There is still a network of railway lines in this area but now only used for freight. A long campaign has been underway to restore passenger trains to these lines; as it is at the moment there is a frequent network of buses linking them to Newcastle some running as frequently as every 10 minutes. Every so often on these buses you cross the railway: one place I had to jump off at was Bedlington when I spotted a signal box; there turned out to be two (North and South) within about 200 yards of each other, protecting a junction and level crossings. The area they are actually situated in is officially called 'Bedlington Station' as Bedlington itself is about two miles away. Unlike similarly named 'Carstairs Junction' which still has a junction 'Bedlington Station' no longer has a station of course, though you can easily make out where it was once situated.
Finishing the main bit of the bus journeys at Morpeth I had two options for returning. My original plan was to do the remaining Wetherspoons I needed in Newcastle City Centre then travel back via Carlisle whilst the other was to visit a new branch open in Spennymoor near Durham and return again via Leeds. I had to pick up a bit of time on my schedule to do this second option but that was a good idea as I could use my Arriva day ticket for this bit too and, as it turned out, I got home on time. The west had been suffering all day from gales and the West Coast Main Line had been effectively closed since dinner time north of Preston. I didn't find this out until I had already committed myself to the Spennymoor option, had I stuck to returning via Carlisle I would have literally been stuck!
What may well be my final trip of the year was a day trip to London. Yet again this was for Wetherspoons, there are currently 128 of them in the Greater London area (as always this list is invaluable), and I now only have 7 to visit. The day was one of those really dull days where even if there is anything worth photographing you can't pluck up any interest to point your camera. I managed a handful of shots as I toured the South-West corner of the capital. I would have liked to get a few shots of the District Line D78 Stock which are due to be withdrawn as the new Bombardier S7 stock arrives but the few times I went for a picture it was a new train that appeared.
Travelling on the D-stock it was odd to think that there are plans by some to re-engineer these trains and add diesel engines to possibly replace the Class 142 Pacers in the North! After the first few pubs in Fulham and Putney that were easily reached by tube the rest of the day was mainly spent on buses going to the exotic parts of London like Tooting and Mitcham. I ended up in Croydon where I would have liked to get a few shots of the Tramlink there but it was too dark, and frankly too busy with Christmas shoppers, to get more than just one shot of their fairly new Variobahn trams. With so few Wetherspoons to visit now in the capital hopefully my next trips can concentrate more on the public transport side of things rather than rushing round pubs!
I'm not sure if I will get chance to get out again this year, tomorrow being the last day of the Northern class 47 hauled specials for Christmas Shopping in Manchester so I might try to get a picture or two if the weather is reasonable, anything else I will leave until my next blog which I'm sure I will get round to writing some time in January. As always thanks for reading not just this edition but all those over the last three years. A merry Christmas and good New Year to one and all, hopefully in the new year we might get some snow to enable me to get some more pictures of trains in it as I'm running out of suitably wintery shots to make into Christmas greeting 'cards'. Here is one from Christmas Eve 2010, one of the few Christmas's I can ever remember that were actually white! Bye for now.