Posted in Railways on Saturday 31st January 2009 at 5:30pm

Despite dire warnings of Arctic conditions overnight, I woke to a cold dry morning. Yesterday's irritations at work had left me with a fuzzy head and strangely, with eyelids which felt like sandpaper. Creaked and groaned my way around the flat getting ready for today's trip. I'd planned and booked this excursion some time ago, and having had a fairly full week had barely had time to think about things, so there was something of an unreal and unprepared quality to things as I set out for the station. The routine here doesn't really need repetition, out on the 0550, change platforms at Weston and collapse into a nice warm carriage with the intention of snoozing my way to Paddington. Woke up often enough to determine we were heading eastwards via Bradford-on-Avon and Hawkeridge Junction, which meant even less reasons to stay awake as we negotiated the always fairly dull Berks and Hants route through startling, red skies. into the city. Surfaced in time to see DB Schencker liveried 59206 on Acton Depot. So wrong-footed by this novelty in fact that I missed a fair amount of other locos which were also in attendance. Gathered my wits for the cross-London journey - as a TfL bulletin earlier in the week had informed me of the partial closure of the Circle Line. Tumbled straight onto a Kings Cross bound train at Paddington, but was unceremoniously turfed off and sent over the footbridge at Edgeware Road to complete the journey on a different set. At Kings Cross, surfaced and waited for ages for a bus to Liverpool Street, in the end piling on to a 214 which took me right to the doors.

Here I had a choice of trains to Stansted Airport.So with an excellent regular service and no need to be there particularly early, I relaxed and had breakfast before catching the 1025. First Class on the 317 was grubby, but refreshments were offered and the service was good. The red glow in the sky had dissolved into a freezing but brilliant morning, and the sunlight through the scratched windows was oddly warm. Amazed at how cheering the weather was, settled in for a decent and quick ride to Bishops Stortford before taking the relatively recent curve into the tunnel which led almost all of the way to the airport. Airports should, of course, be magical places. Stations and airports have always fascinated me - and the conjunction of both here should have been particularly so. But it wasn't. Stansted is a functional station - the interior of a multistory carpark with dull, grey lighting and little but the distant whine of escalators to break the silence. The airport isn't much better - a vast empty hangar populated by low-rise plastic shop units and a warren of little walkways between them which end in unexpected security checkpoints. Thankfully, my choice of a later arrival meant less time here, so I chanced a coffee in the rather less depressing Arrivals area before heading back to the station, and the rather far-flung bay platform 2 where the Birmingham bound unit was waiting for departure.

Off on time, taking the single line chord returning us to the northbound Cambridge line. With today's new track complete I could settle in to the long run into Birmingham. This is an odd journey, but one I'm strangely fond of. Initially through empty, flat fen country before reaching Ely with its golden stone cathedral shining in the sunlight. More emptyness as we headed for March where a small depot has sprung up in recent years and a couple of locos were stabled. Next point of interest was Peterborough - always worth a look, and today was no exception as the unexpected presence of a freshly DB Schenker liveried 66152 was a surprise. I rather like the all-over red with simple white lettering which has transferred from over the channel, but I wonder how monotonous it will get when well over 250 locos are plodding around in these colours? As ever, no camera out when it counted of course! Some parallel running beside the East Coast Main Line for a while before curving away at Helpston and crossing the tiny County of Rutland. Having done this part of the trip relatively recently, relaxed and enjoyed the views and opportunity to people-watch as the train filled and emptied along the way. The three-hour long journey seemed to pass incredibly quickly and I snapped out of my fugue as we were passing Water Orton. Another chance to sit and enjoy a quiet coffee at New Street. Timings were slack today as I'd let cheap advance tickets guide my choice of trains. Had a wander around the busy station, being careful to avoid the heavy Police presence which was likely due to it being match day somewhere locally.

220009 at Bristol Temple Meads
220009 at Bristol Temple Meads

Over to platform 1A for the 1642 back to Bristol. This train arrives early and waits time at this far-flung extremity of the station in relative quiet. Boarded, found a seat, and settled in for the relaxing ride back in a reflective mood. Pondered the planned trip for next weekend during the run home, and tried to think through a couple of the work issues which had seemed too complicated to figure yesterday. Had a while to wait at Bristol Temple Meads, so spent some time playing with my camera settings and trying to get decent shots in the dark - something I've rarely got the patience to play around with. Sometimes it seems these trips have a purpose aside from the dash for track, desperate mileage accumulation or heading somewhere specific. While on paper it was a big circle with a break at the airport, this escape mission was very important!

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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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