Posted in Railways on Saturday 14th January 2006 at 9:57pm

With another complete month of weekend closures down here looming, January has become a time to get out and explore as much as possible before frustration and replacement bus bashing become the order of the day. Accordingly, I've been living on awaiting availability of cheap tickets. This week it was a case of going back to the North West, since feeling pretty awful last week meant I didn't take advantage of the chance to do much in terms of new track. So, nothing complicated planned for this week - a swift run up to Wigan, over to Manchester for a circuit around Rochdale, and back via Stoke-on-Trent. Lots of miles for not too much money.

Out on 2M02 as is now customary. Slight delay at Weston waiting for 1M42 - previously the Glasgow train, now cut back to Birmingham for some reason. Not a problem, as I had an hour at New Street and we made good time throughout. Slightly concerned regarding the hot food provision made by Virgin on this service with only four bacon rolls put on board at Bristol, but managed to get one of them for breakfast by a whisker. A dull wait at New Street followed, highlight being a fruitless search around WH Smiths for a blue highlighter pen! Remarkably the coffee stall had run out of coffee - a theme seemed to be developing for the day! The Preston bound Pendolino arrived early, and was not particularly heavily loaded. Found a prime seat, but soon realised I was across the carriage from a fare-dodger who disappeared into the toilet for extended periods whenever the Train Manager appeared to be near by. Tipped off the TM on his next trip through, and was met with a noncommital 'that doesn't surprise me'. Mentally composed an email to Virgin claiming free travel to Crewe since the TM sanctioned it for this passenger!

Off at the rather bleak and windswept Wigan North Western, and a short trek up the street to the imposing frontage of Wallgate station. Descended to platform level and found a busy 142 awaiting departure for Victoria. It was a little earlier than planned, but with a tip off on connections from the guard, decided to wing it. Slight diversion from my planned route, as we went via Westhoughton and Bolton missing quite a bit of the track I was trying to cover, but it was new track nonetheless. Over the bridge at Victoria and onto one of the few remaining 155s for the short trip to Rochdale.

With a little over thirty minutes, wandered out of the station. Pretty uninspiring place in many ways, but found refreshment nonetheless, and headed back to catch a service back to Victoria via Oldham. Strangely, the informative and helpful guard from the Wigan service popped his head out of the 150 waiting to depart and tried to persuade me to go back the way I came because it was quicker. Declined, and completed my circuit the long way around. Back at Victoria, explored a bit more. I remember first coming here a good few years back just to visit, and marvelling at the tiled map of the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway on the wall. Noticed that Victoria seems to have become a meeting place for young goths. Not a problem as such, and they seem a pretty placid bunch. Just curious why it should be so?

Caught the tram to Piccadilly and had a good long browse in the Ian Allen Bookshop. Realised there was quite an important football match going on soon after arriving at the station, mainly due to heavy police presence. Kept a low profile until departure on the 15:17 Pendolino for Birmingham. Quick platform swap at New Street for the 17:12 back to Weston. Much confusion as the service disappeared from the screens moments before its apparently 'On Time' arrival. Platform staff just as confused as passengers. It was finally called for the adjacent platform and left only a couple of minutes down. We made up time by Cheltenham and Gloucester, and ran smoothly as far as Temple Meads. Slowed to a crawl moments after leaving and stopped on a red at Bedminster. Police were attending a preceeding service at Parson Street. Realised this was my connection from Weston, but thought little more of it. Heard from our TM that BTP had called for reinforcements to deal with football fans, and that things weren't moving until they arrived. Finally got underway about 28 late, but running on the tail of the Wessex unit lost us more time. Lots of people getting hot under the collar about connections into Cornwall. Bailed at Weston to find more drunken goons on the platform awaiting the unit, now around 45 late. It finally appeared, with a visibly shaken Wessex guard and a couple of BTP officers aboard.

Strange to think that a Manchester local derby can happen without incident, but an unremarkable match in Bristol can cause so much trouble.

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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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