Wednesday, 7 September 2011

A day trip to Blackpool - Part 1

06: 40. An early morning trip today, starting at 06:36 from Loughborough to Peterborough for a connection to Edinburgh.  I've never done this route before.  After a meeting in Edinburgh, I have to go to Blackpool for the Flexity2 launch tomorrow.  This is the blog of the trip, covering four different train companies, demonstrating some differing standards.

The train this morning is a Class 158/8 in EMT "Ice Cream" livery and it seems reasonably clean.  As we accelerated out of the station, we ran parallel with the 06:25 HST to London.  The driver was sitting in the cab, a foot up, sipping a cup of tea.  Brought back memories of my days driving.  I always liked early turns, watching the dawn as the sun rose and knowing you'd be finished by lunch time.

Just saw a woman in a field near Syston E Jc. walking nine dogs.  I had time to count them as we were accelerating away from the 10mph curve at the junction.  I wonder if that's worse than herding cats.

06:43.  Now stopped in the middle of nowhere.  The next stop is Melton Mowbray (of pork pie fame) but the satnav on my iPhone shows we are at Frisby on the Wreake (Yes there is a place called that).  The young, cheery conductor tells me that we are trapped behind a stone train but "They'll loop it beyond Melton".  On the move within five minutes but now my connection at Peterborough is reduced to 7 minutes unless there's a lot of slack in the timetable.

06:52.  There is.  We left Melton 1 minute late and we've passed the freight.  Passed another freight going west too.  Our train is quite nippy and the vibration from the underfloor engine is marginally less annoying than a Meridian.  Those Meridians really are horrible trains.

07:18.  Now at Stamford and on time.  The station is built of the same beautiful stone as the rest of the town, even the cutting walls.  We should be glad Victorian railway engineers had some feeling for keeping the visual continuity of communities.

07:30.  Now going south on the GN main line.  Seems odd to go south to go north.  Seamless, same platform change at Peterborough onto East Coast train to Edinburgh.  It's been a long time since I was on the GN main line.

07:54.  My first impression is of slick service.  Coffee served as soon as I sat down and my breakfast order taken quickly and efficiently.  Ride is hard.  Must be the high frequency being generated by the rubber suspension elements.

08:25.  Had excellent breakfast.  Served hot and tasty.  Waiting for more coffee now.  I'm noticing the weather getting more northern as we progress north.  It's dull, grey, drizzling and gloomy.  My reasons for infrequent visits this far north are being justified.  With the train braking for the curve at Bawtry, I can feel the wheels picking up somewhere.

08:50.  Weather has cleared for our arrival at York.  Still not got any more coffee.  

09:06.  Coffee eventually arrived after the York stop.  Now we are on the "racing stretch" of straight track between York and Northallerton.  It's odd to think that the first Underground car built for the Central London Railway in 1900 was brought over from Ashbury's in Manchester to be tested along this line.  I wonder how fast they took it up to.

09:18.  I can hardly write this.  We are approaching Darlington and the ride has got worse.  There's a lot of high frequency vibration and the coach body is rattling with it.

09:25.  Leaving Darlington 4 minutes late.  I like the NER curved train shed roofs like those at York, Darlington and Newcastle. 

09:40.  The approach to Durham is through cuttings and over viaducts and it must have been very expensive to build.  The view of the city from the viaduct south of the station is worth making the whole trip.

09:54.  Arrived at Newcastle in the sunshine.  I'd forgotten how wide the Tyne river is.  It occurs to me how "state owned" the ugly grey colour of the East Coast stock looks.  Departed 5 late.

10:06.  Currently at a stand just by the A19 bridge at Annitsford.  Two minutes before we moved.  Slow crawl forward as if carrying out the rule then realised it was a level crossing failure at Dan Dykes.  A Police car was parked across the road.  Losing more time as we crawl through the block approaching Cramlington.

10:30.  Just passing Alnmouth.  There is a wonderful view of the town as you approach from the south.  It sits on the coast amongst the little hills and cliffs at the estuary. Very pretty.

10:43.  Passing Holy Island; another beautiful view in the sunshine.  So much better then flying or driving, and I've managed to get some work done.

10:48.  Another stunning view as we approach Berwick and the Royal Border Bridge.  Depart Berwick 13 late.

11:05.  I noticed a warbling sound generated from speakers mounted on the catenary masts around Grantshouse.  I wonder what these are for.  Are they some sort of track worker warning system?

11:25.  Passing Wallyford, about 8 miles out of Edinburgh.  We should actually be there by now. 

11:33. Wheel stop at Waverley.  The place is a building site and very congested.  Traffic constantly held up by a pedestrian crossing needed by passengers to get from one side of the station to the other.  Not well thought out.

Well, that's the end of my 5-hour train trip this morning.   Another 3hrs 11 minutes this afternoon.  Hey ho.

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