Posted in Railways on Saturday 16th August 2008 at 11:57pm

It's unusual for me to take annual leave during the summer, and even more so at what's been a fairly fraught time. Despite needing to be in the office on Monday, there was an 'end of term' feeling about today. With too much to finish and too little time, I felt stressed and rushed in the build up to today's trip. Had a strange ride up to Wolverhampton yesterday, dogged by stupid authorisation problems with my bank card and the need to trudge across a menacingly chav-infested town centre after hours to stock up on provisions for the trip. So, it felt pretty good to be on the platform this morning despite all the distractions and problems, waiting for the stock to appear. Just a little later than planned, the thunderous sound of 37059 rounding the curve into the station heralded the start of the day's entertainment. Such a contrast to last December when the 'Electric Scot Farewell' tour failed to turn up - and good to see things working out for Spitfire today.

We were soon off, passing Oxley and picking up at Telford and Shrewsbury, where we unusually used platform 3. The pair of 37s weren't playing well together at this point, and we appeared to be running on one loco for much of this leg. Despite this we made good progress along the crucially timed single line section to Chester and then via Helsby and Warrington to Manchester Victoria. Here, someone sensibly slipped into the cab of 47712 which was providing the train supply, to give us a bit of a shove up Miles Platting bank. Suddenly, a little before we entered Standedge Tunnel, the 37s started to work in multiple and the change in performance was evident! Enjoyed a very quick run via Healey Mills and Castleford before turning south to join the ECML via Gascoigne Wood, Hambleton and Temple Hirst Junctions. Must say a word about the excellent rolling stock too - Spitfire were using the all First Class former Stobart Pullman rake, which belongs to DRS. Most of the branding had disappeared (except oddly, that in the toilets) but what remained was a clean, comfortable and very well appointed rake of Mk 3 stock. Following a very slackly timed run via Grimbsy and a wait at Barnetby, arrived at a rather gloomy Cleethorpes pretty much on time.

37059 and 37423 rest at Cleethorpes after their exertions
37059 and 37423 rest at Cleethorpes after their exertions

I hadn't given much thought to what to do in Cleethorpes for four hours. Some folks planned a walk or bus down the coast for the Light Railway, others had scoped out various pubs. Decided to wander and find old haunts from my last visit here on an All Line Rover in 2005. Did a circuit of the town centre, finding the Comat Hotel up for sale and the surly-staffed Agrah Indian restaurant still apparently operating. Resisted the temptation to head for the Fisherman's Arms where I'd listened to a local telling stories of shipwrecks, and headed instead for the Good Beer Guide listed No.1 and No.2 Refreshment Rooms at the station, sampling the beer at both and watching the Olympic 100 metres final with the locals and sharing their disbelief at Usain Bolt's turn of speed! Joined in the seaside spirit with some pretty mediocre fish and chips before heading back to watch the stock arrive back at the station with 47712 leading.

47712 returns the ECS to Cleethorpes
47712 returns the ECS to Cleethorpes

Another impressive start, and a slight diversion from our outward route travelling via Hebden Bridge and Rochdale to reach a damp Manchester in the dark. Retraced our steps again, but held outside Chester for a right time arrival after an announcement that a lineside fire was causing heavy delays at Wolverhampton. This didn't seem to put the driver off however, and the start from Chester was possibly one of the loudest and most impressive performances I've ever witnessed from a pair of locomotives. Made steady progress back to our drop-off points, despite the heavy rain. No obvious sign of any problems as we cruised into Wolverhampton a few minutes before time. Soon discovered what was up as we stumbled out of the train into a smoke-filled station. Not immediately clear what was on fire. Braved the rain and made the dash under the subway and along the colonnade back to my hotel at the former low level station sight. Looking back, noted the derelict Miller's building next to the station burning. Slunk through a hotel reception full of angry rail passengers. A storming trip in comfortable surroundings, and a great start to a few weeks of interesting trips. Also good to be on a Spitfire tour at last!

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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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