Posted in Railways on Saturday 8th April 2006 at 10:24pm
Years ago, an old schoolfriend and I devised the Five Cities Tour. The plan was to devise a route from our quite poorly served local station to five cathedral cities, drink a pint of beer in each and get home within a day. In reality it was nothing more than a way of gathering mileage on the railways for me, but the addition of the element of challenge and the beer validated it and tried to make it appeal to female student friends. It didn't, and it never happened.
Fast forward then to this weekend - the plans was to gather lots and lots of mileage with no excuses, explanations or targets. I'd been lucky enough to find some really cheap fares which enabled a trip to London, then Sheffield and then home, going First Class all the way, for about 35 quid! This of course necessitated an early start, and I found myself once again on 2M02 leaving Highbridge a little late. Met some friends on board, and chatted as we lost more and more time running on one engine into Bristol. They planned to spend some time watching events at Temple Meads, then head off to the fireworks in celebration of Brunel's birthday at around 21:00. Said goodbye and dashed for the luckily, also slightly delayed 07:30 to London. Settled into my seat and enjoyed an easy trip through pleasantly sunny southern counties. Having totally forgotten Brunel's anniverary, thought a fitting tribute was to travel this line today, including Box Tunnel which he allegedly aligned so the sun would shine directly through it on his birthday. I can't be sure if it worked, but it was a beautiful day for it! Just outside Swindon we braked hard and slowed to an emergency stop, having hit an 'inanimate object' on the line. We were soon on our way again, but spent much of the rest of the trip looped onto the slow line. On leaving the train at Paddington, noted a lot of worried looking fitters poking torches down beside the platform.
Found the Circle Line out of action between Paddington and Kings Cross St. Pancras, so used a generous allowance of time to travel to Blackfriars and then via First Capital Connect (formerly Thameslink) under Clerkenwell and eventually to Kings Cross. Got to St. Pancras Interim Station in plenty of time to explore a bit and get some lunch. I'd hoped for a Meridian from here, just to sample the First Class facilities. Instead, got a tired-looking but reliable HST set. Some pretty irritating people on board which I almost let ruin my journey, but otherwise a fine run up the Midland Mainline. For me, this is still strange territory. I don't use the line much, and I never really get my bearings on it. Consequently, didn't pay nearly enough attention to my journey, and soon enough we were heading for our first stop at Leicester. From here, the highlight has to be the crawl past the Railway Technical Centre and Etches Park as we waited for a platform at Derby. If I'd had the presence of mind, and not dozed my way from Leicester onwards, I might have managed to stick a camera out of the window!
Still in high sun, completed the journey into Sheffield. Had a wander on the station, and then left for the city centre, with Good Beer Guide related plans. However, the city was in the grip of a football match - and I use the term carefully. The masses of Police were barring entry to pubs, and it seems some streets were out of bounds entirely. After feeling frustrated, I figured it was for my protection really - and I headed off in another direction. I strayed into a strange, rather run-down quarter of the city. Lots of Victorian civic and commercial architecture, and market stalls everywhere. Oddly, lots and lots of amusement arcades too. The people here seemed utterly and refreshingly oblivious to the football match elsewhere in town. A sudden shower of heavy rain drove me into a strange, rather ancient looking Thwaites pub beside the new Transport Interchange, called The Old Queen's Head. Lots of beams and low ceilings, in what is apparently the oldest commercial building in Sheffield. Not inspired however by a pint of Lancaster Bomber which was curiously cold and tasteless - whatever Freddie Flintoff might say!
Back to a damp station for a cup of tea and more wandering, before catching the uneventful but rather busy 15:53 from Sheffield as far as Weston-super-Mare. All the way back, the bad weather seemed to be chasing us, but I arrived home in fairly strong sunshine. A lot of miles, a lot of relaxing and not paying attention, but no new track or other excitement. Sometimes, it's nice to have a weekend like this.
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.