Posted in Railways on Saturday 8th March 2008 at 11:28pm

This should have been a nice easy day - roll out of my reasonably priced hotel and into Kings Cross for a not-so-stupid o'clock start. However, it became apparent as the letters from Pathfinder rolled in during the past couple of weeks that things would not be quite as straightforward. Credit to the team, and to Network Rail though - as despite all of the problems, possessions and restrictions, this train was scheduled to run and to cover pretty much all of the track that it set out to. So, instead of my easy start, left the clean but claustrophobic hotel, grabbed breakfast at Kings Cross and descended onto the tube for the trundle round to Cannon Street. All went fairly well, aside from a sudden realisation that Cannon Street LT station didn't open until 0730 on a Saturday. Had the presence of mind to make the leap at Monument and take the short walk to the station, passing London Stone on the way, which seemed a fitting opening to a day spent bashing the lesser known routes around the city.

Nevertheless, a locomotive hauled departure from Cannon Street was a rare treat. Immediately onto new track, covering the curve west to Charing Cross - for many years something I've wanted to do, despite being a relative small section of line. After a pointless delay at Charing Cross (and a dire warning about flash photograph which caused a few giggles in Coach E!) we were off once again - heading for the dizzy heights of Tulse Hill. This was the first of three or four visits to this seemingly mundane location at the junction of four lines. This time is was a means of achieving our reversing point at Herne Hill, allowing us to achieve traversal of the ultra-rare Leigham Curve. This done, we set off once again into the tangle of lines south of the Thames. The lack of much development of the underground network here means there are a mess of commuter routes, with innumerable curves and links which see use either only at peak times, or as diversionary routes.. Took a huge westward loop here, travelling via the now very familiar Kensington Olympia and Acton Wells area to reach the Hounslow loop at Kew and then the less-travelled chord at Whitton. A fair bit of new track covered already, I'll confess I didn't find the idea of a lengthy run out to Uckfield of much interest - I'd done it on a Thumper some years back, and find the area rather dull - but the confusion of possible routes and lines, at least as far as East Croydon, kept our bay of seats interested with much discussion of former routes and lines in the area too.

37405 awaits the start of the tour from the blocks at Cannon Street
37405 awaits the start of the tour from the blocks at Cannon Street

As predicted, the Uckfield and East Grinstead portions of the journey were rather less interesting for me. For some reason we were also booked to return to East Croydon to reverse between the two branches, adding more time to a wet, dull and misty trip. An opportunity to attempt to spot all of the elusive Southern 171/8 class however, and potential for photographs of both of our locomotives at East Grinstead. Soon back onto the mainline, and via an unexpected chord into Crystal Palace and once again Tulse Hill. Noted some works associated with the East London Line extension and the Overground project as we neared New Cross. Our destination was London Bridge, arriving in the terminal platforms - once one of our potential start points and now a chance for a break, a bite to eat and a wander around a station I don't often visit. Made a couple of calls home, and enjoyed a much needed leg stretch. Soon off again, this time to Victoria via some of the more unusual parts of the 'Battersea Tangle'. This involved a close pass of the once proud Stewart's Lane shed. Nothing of note to see nowadays aside from an apparently abandoned shunter and a very empty shed. Arrival at Victoria was in the 'VSOE' platform 8 alongside the wall which divides the two distinct sections of the station in a way much more obvious than it seems from the platforms.

On departure we headed East once again and into the suburbs of North Kent at Blackheath. This allowed a long run, unfortunately most of it behind local units of which there are many on this route. Took the curve at Slade Green and doubled back to Blackheath via the tunnel. Next brief overlay was a pathing stop in the passenger loop at London Bridge. However, at the last minute we were switched to wait in the platform. You can win 'em all, and it must have been very incovnenient to have us stranding there for many minutes. Finally off and into Blackfriars.

37405 on arrival at East Grinstead
37405 on arrival at East Grinstead

Recently reinstated 37401 at the other end of the train
Recently reinstated 37401 at the other end of the train

Following departure via Canterbury Road Junction (and another much needed bit of line) came perhaps the longest stretch of uninterrupted running all day. Setting out again via Kensington Olympia we travelled via the High Level station at Willesden and took the northern fork at Gospel Oak to head for Tottenham. From here, now sadly in the dark, we travelled via Temple Mills and passed the vast new Eurostar servicing facilities and more rather mysterious earthworks which deserve further investigation. We then wound our way back onto the North London Line travelling via Hackney Central and the curve at Canonbury to join the Great Northern lines as they rose from their tunnels at Drayton Park. A sensible and speedy run along the East Coast Mainline to Bounds Green where ECS sets were queuing for access to the depot, including one of Grand Central's recently completed HST sets. Took the flyover onto the Hertford Loop and again made swift progress to our final reversing point: the elusive bay platform at Gordon Hill. A real sense of mission accomplished among those stretching their legs on the platform in the rather damp and dark evening. Soon back on board, and onto the goods lines as far as Finsbury Park when further progress along these was prevented by more sets awaiting access to the depot. As we waited to cross onto the Up Slow two hauled trains full of Chelsea supporters flashed by on their way back from giant-killing defeat at Barnsley. We arrived, just a little after time in the suburban platforms at Kings Cross, where we should have set out from about fourteen hours ago. A short walk back to the hotel, with much Baker and Quail marking to look forward too. A well-organised, timely and interesting tour which like all London perambulations throws new light on old places.

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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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