Posted in Railways on Saturday 28th June 2008 at 11:37pm


The third and last in a month of Open Days and Galas which has seen some interesting new locations visited and many obscure and exotic engines sighted and photographed. What perhaps surprises me most is that I never get tired of tramping around, twisting my ankle on ballast and fighting for photographic positions at these events. The same old faces crop up, some welcome and some not, and all in all a good time is had. So despite another ridiculously early start and some frankly irritating twittering for much of the journey, I was happy to be heading for Tyseley - a site seen from the Paddington-Birmingham line many times but never visited. The occasion was the 100th Annivesary of the former Great Western Railway depot on this site, and part of the attraction was that as well as a museum the site remains an active depot - now serving the new London Midland franchise. So an easy journey up, a swift dash over to Moor Street and brief ride on one of the local services stopping specially at Tyseley today brought us to the queue with half an hour before opening time.

Named in honour of the anniversary, 08616 'Tyseley 100'
Named in honour of the anniversary, 08616 'Tyseley 100'

The rather compact museum site was packed with history - and a small, but notable criticism was the lack of room for manoeuvre in the site at times. Steam locomotives reflecting the depot's past role ranged around the turntable, and spent much of the day rotating and then working the short shuttle service up and down the depot site for a crowd made up of families and enthusiasts alike. Beyond the turntable, in the London Midland depot a number of locomotives and units were spread around with plenty of room for photography. These included, still on the back of it's low-loader, 139001 - the first of the Parry Peoplemover cars which will soon work the Stourbridge Junction to Town service, replacing the Class 153s which currently work the 'Town Car'. At eleven sharp, a crowd gathered near the workshops to witness the naming of depot shunter 08616 as 'Tyseley 100'.

33202 lurks at the back of the London Midland depot
33202 lurks at the back of the London Midland depot

A quick look around the shed, with various flavours of Class 170 including the recently refurbished 170397 with it's rather classy looking new interior which hopefully reflects the shape of things to come for the whole Crosscountry fleet. Also in the yard were a number of preserved and privately owned locomotives which receive overhaul and attention at the Tyseley site - including a brace of Class 33s and the sparkling Electric Blue 86259, with it's namesake BRMB disc-jockey Les Ross on hand to talk about the loco and serve as a compere for the naming ceremonies. The second of these saw former 47732 renamed and renumbered to one of it's former identities: 47580 'County of Essex'. The locomotive was positively shining, in Stratford Depot's trademark variation on large-logo livery, complete with cockney sparrow beneath the nameplate. A fine piece of work and testament to the skills of those at Tyseley depot along with the Stratford Group. I hope the aim of getting this locomotive back onto the mainline is achieved very soon.

Also rededicated at Tyseley 100, 47580 'County of Essex'
Also rededicated at Tyseley 100, 47580 'County of Essex'

After a bite to eat and a final wander around the site which was now busy with locals and visitors from further afield like ourselves, decided to head for the station and join the large group of enthusiasts chatting and watching the trains in the now fairly strong afternoon sunshine. Spent a happy couple of hours watching freight workings, and the Wrexham and Shropshire movements heading through the station. Following departure of the final planned freight for the day, set off back to Birmingham on another of the additional services. Despite a delayed Voyager back to Weston, made the connection with a local unit and found my way to the end of the platform at Highbridge in good time to watch 55022 thunder by hauling 'The Cornish Explorer' in rather overcast conditions before heading for the pub to celebrate!

55022 'Royal Scots Grey' leads the Cornish Explorer at Highbridge
55022 'Royal Scots Grey' leads the Cornish Explorer at Highbridge

A fine day out and another positive day for the railway, as much cash will have been raised for charity by the event. In a summer with few railtours of note (at least for me) these galas and open days have provided excellent entertainment. Long may they continue.

Movebook Link

Posted in Railways on Sunday 22nd June 2008 at 3:27pm


Read that following it's failure yesterday at Newton Abbot, 'Duke of Gloucester' was to move to Barton Hill today for attention. Given that the failure was described as serious, and that we'd heard tails on the way back from Cranmore yesterday of some difficulty in moving the loco, expected it to be hauled back. Set out for the station in blazing sunshine, very different to yesterday's gloom. Met a familiar face and passed the time chatting. The peace and quiet of a Sunday at Highbridge station was soon shattered by 66621 heading back to Fairwater Yard.

66621 heads for Fairwater with the High Output Ballast Cleaning train
66621 heads for Fairwater with the High Output Ballast Cleaning train

A few minutes later, having watched a light in the distance for what seemed like miles along the flat, straight track, The Duke passed under it's own steam - albeit carefully and not nearly as fast as it's passed Highbridge before.

71000 'Duke of Gloucester' limps back to Barton Hill
71000 'Duke of Gloucester' limps back to Barton Hill

Busy day, and hardly had to move from home.


Posted in Railways on Saturday 21st June 2008 at 6:56pm


For once, the weather had turned out as expected and I woke early to a gloomy prospect. Set out for the first train off Highbridge, initially for Bristol. The plan was to arrive early enough for the first of the shuttle trains which Pathfinder were operating to Cranmore station. Time for breakfast before boarding the 07:22 Portsmouth Harbour train. Now these services have always been busy - but at this hour a three-car 158 was only just coping with the number of passengers. Soon into Westbury, a station I rarely visit these days. Good to see some much needed improvements in facilities have been made. Soon started to get busy with enthusiasts and curious locals as 59001 led the stock out of the yard and through the station to return to platform 1 with 66200 at the business end. Found a seat on the surprisingly busy train and settled in for some new track which would take me towards home on a line which would once have made today's journey much easier by ending up at Yatton station. Now however the line is truncated at Cranmore, with a short extension towards Shepton Mallet operated by the East Somerset Railway. The line remains open of course because of the vast quarry complex at Merehead - and today's joint open day had attracted a fair crowd!

Slugs reunited - 37906 and 37901 at Merehead
Slugs reunited - 37906 and 37901 at Merehead

On arrival at Cranmore, made straight for the vintage buses to Merehead with the intention of getting around the locos while the weather was at least not too wet and there were fewer people on site. The buses too, were fascinating. Lots of local examples from the 1950s to 1970s, displaying familar destinations. It was only as the journey to Merehead started and we began to pass more buses we realised just how many there were! The short journey took us to the railhead, where I made directly for the line of preserved locos visiting. Old friends like 50049 stood beside 'slugs' 37901 and 906 as a British Railways 9F steamed by in the background, making fairly light work of a 1600 tonne stone train. Despite the mud, the drizzle and the appalling light, had a fantastic time exploring, heading into the workshop area where almost all of the Class 59 fleet were present. Also stationed here were some more modern visitors, including the recently repainted 60040.

Shape of things to come? Recently repainted 60040
Shape of things to come? Recently repainted 60040

Spent longer than I expected wandering around the site, watching even more locos arrive and manoeuvre within the yard. None of the usual overzealous safety stuff either, and no silliness from the visitors meant that this all worked rather well. Eventually decided to dry off on a coach tour of Torr Quarry. This absolutely fascinating half-hour took us deep down onto the quarry floor, beside the vast 'walking' Primary Crusher and into the terminal where 70% of the facilities stone leaves by train. The whole operation felt slick, tidy and there were obvious efforts to limit the environmental impact of the quarry - something I recall hearing about on the news during my childhood in the area.

On getting back to Merehead, made the journey back to Cranmore on an alarmingly slow double-decker and then walked the short distance to Cranmore West for a brief trip out to Mendip Vale - now the western extent of this line, just tantalisingly short of Shepton Mallet. Not a long or particularly interesting line, but good to have done the track and good to see the ESR's efforts to preserve this little corner of Somerset's rail network. Back onto the shuttle with 59001 leading for the trek back to Westbury and then homewards. Arrived in Highbridge with about 20 minutes to spare before Spitfire Railtours' 'Paignton Pudding' tour blasted through with 37423 at the helm. The fading light made for a rough picture - but good to see nonetheless.

In very bad light, 37423 and 37606 pass Highbridge Loop
In very bad light, 37423 and 37606 pass Highbridge Loop

So, an excellent and well-organised day out not really very far from home. The great shame is that Somerset has lost enough of it's rail network to make this feel a long way off indeed - and I'm as guilty myself for not really appreciating or understanding my local area.

Movebook Link

Posted in Railways on Saturday 14th June 2008 at 10:59pm


Today saw a lull in the procession of railway-related events which seem to have clustered in the month of June. So once again, a chance to rack up some mileage in pursuit of one of the stray bits of track which has eluded me over the years. These missions have become increasingly desperate and costly, but they get me out around the country for which I'm thankful as a diversion from the current round of oddness at work during the week. Despite having booked the trip a few days back, dithered about going given a tricky day spent in A&E with my little nephew and a broken arm yesterday. But, despite being a little distracted, found myself leaving home early with the promise of good weather and clutching a fistful of cheap tickets for a trip via Rotherham Central and more blue ink in the 'Baker'.

221136 empties passengers on arrival from Bristol under the impressive roof at Piccadilly
221136 empties passengers on arrival from Bristol under the impressive roof at Piccadilly

Whilst not nearly as useful as when it started from Exeter and connected easily with local services at Weston, 1M42 remains a useful train. Generally quiet and reliable, this service provides a decent link with the North and a sensibly early arrival in Manchester Piccadilly. Having tried a variety of routes, settled for this one and despite a short connection still enjoyed the arrival at Piccadilly. Despite it's conversion into a modern shopping complex, it still retains it's atmosphere of a real 'big station'. The light, airy trainshed always lifts my spirits and reminds me of early journeys to this part of the world. Today, only here to change trains - made complicated by some platform changing shenanigans and serious overcrowding. As the tanker driver strike starts to bite somewhat, its encouraging to note increased patronage of rail services - but the 3-car 185 working to Sheffield wasn't coping well. By the end of my short journey via the Hope Valley, First Class had been declassified by a harassed guard. Watched the unit leave for Cleethorpes still packed to the rafters before almost getting the wrong train in my haste to move on!

The next part of the trip was the reason for coming up here today - the short section of line which diverges from the Sheffield-Doncaster route at Holmes Junction and rejoins at Aldwarke Junction, taking in Rotherham Central and C.F.Booth's scrapyard on route. This area confused me for years as I sought to untangle the mess of lines and work out which I was actually travelling on. The unit made slow progress out of Sheffield, snaking across the tracks and finally speeding up just a little once off the mainline at Holmes. The scrapyard was impressively large - much bigger than can be seen from the other line - but there was little evidence of rail-related work aside from a line of condemned wagons on the rail connection to the site. Rotherham Central was busier than I expected, a rather modern 1980s building commissioned to replace the much grander but poorly sited Masborough Station. We sat for what seemed like an age at Rotherham before heading back onto the mainline and continuing the busy train's journey to Doncaster where I disembarked.

In a sudden burst of sunshine, 66552 'Maltby Raider' passes Doncaster
In a sudden burst of sunshine, 66552 'Maltby Raider' passes Doncaster

The plan was to spend an hour or so at Doncaster enjoying the passing traffic before heading home on a Voyager direct to Bristol. Couldn't settle into things and found myself very aware of the normal/enthusiast divide today. The weather also took a turn for the chilly and damp, and I found myself sheltering in shirtsleeves, feeling ridiculous and a bit miserable. Pulled myself together in time for the trip home, which was a really good cobweb-blowing trip through much lighter skies in a quiet train. A strange day - probably much influenced by a very odd week - but a chance to escape which is always welcome. A few interesting trips to various open days coming up, which will be interesting and diverting in equal measure. For today though, a little more ink in the book is always a good thing!

Movebook Link

Lost::MikeGTN

I've had a home on the web for more years than I care to remember, and a few kind souls persuade me it's worth persisting with keeping it updated. This current incarnation of the site is centred around the blog posts which began back in 1999 as 'the daylog' and continued through my travels and tribulations during the following years.

I don't get out and about nearly as much these days, but I do try to record significant events and trips for posterity. You may also have arrived here by following the trail to my former music blog Songs Heard On Fast Trains. That content is preserved here too.

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