Posted in Railways on Saturday 11th April 2009 at 10:22pm

Thanks to the Easter Holiday weekend, we get a brief period of grace from the otherwise seemingly never-ending road and rail works here in the south west. Of course the real reason is that in a contracting economy, there is expected to be an exodus of stressed and financially restricted inlanders heading for the traditional coastal holiday spots. These Bank Holidays are always a sensible time to head in the opposite direction from the crowd if you live on the coast. Being able to book early trains instead of tying into a fairly poor replacement bus schedule was a luxury, so I celebrated with a long jaunt up north and some new track into the bargain - something which isn't guaranteed every week these days, as accessible bits of line I've not visited become fewer.

A straightforward and much-rehearsed start, getting the first train out and heading for Bristol. From here, onto the 07:00 to Manchester Piccadilly. Strange weather conditions as we headed north, with the cloud dark and black to the east and pale blue skies to the west. The train was incredibly quiet and I barely saw a soul all the way to Manchester. Took the opportunity to read, relax, eat breakfast and watch the scenery flash by. A brief diversion around Bescot to avoid a blockade on the Stour Valley. Noted 67016, until a couple of days back a regular performer on the First Great Western loco-hauled diagram here. Presumably now heading for remedial work on the wheel flats reported last week. Back onto the mainline for a quick journey into Manchester, checked outside for a few minutes for being much too early in fact! Only half an hour at Piccadilly today, time enough to get coffee and a leisurely wander to the platform for my next service.

170308 with a Hull service at Manchester Piccadilly
170308 with a Hull service at Manchester Piccadilly

With lots of platform changes and double-berthing going on, our train made a very quick turnaround, before heading out into glorious sunshine west of the Pennines. A few Leeds United fans on board too - including one with a strange resemblance to Rab C. Nesbitt! Through Standedge Tunnel to find must cloudier and wetter conditions east of the hills. Finally, through a damp Huddersfield and Dewsbury and into Leeds. The day was starting to get a little busier now, and the station was crowded with people heading away for the weekend with their special 'wheel along' cases and the strange behaviour they seem to cause, not least stopping abruptly at the top of the stairs with no concern about the people following! The plan was to get to Knottingley, using the short stretch of line via Glasshoughton station. In fact, the 12:00 service would have done just this, but as always I had other plans. So, having flagged the 12:00 I boarded the 12:05 to Nottingham as far as Wakefield Kirkgate. Here, waiting across the platform was the unit for Knottingley which took the curve towards Crofton - I'd done this on a railtour previously, but I wanted to try to fathom out the layout of track here, and the pattern of services. This part of Yorkshire has always confused me, with it huge amount of track - much of it freight only or with limited services. Noted one of the Class 180 'Adelante' units which used to work around here resplendent in new First Hull Trains corporate livery outside Crofton Depot - too far off to say which. The route continued through Featherstone and saw the line I needed trailing in just prior to Pontefract Monkhill. Eventually arrived in a rather desolate looking Knottingley, just in time for coal empties from Drax to thunder through behind 66719.

66719 hauling empty coal wagons through Knottingley
66719 hauling empty coal wagons through Knottingley

The unit which had brought me here shunted off into the loop before returning to form the 13:16 back to Leeds via Glasshoughton and a reversal at Castleford. A little better loaded than the train from Wakefield, with a few straggling football supporters still heading for the City. New track covered, I treated myself to much needed refreshment at Leeds before boarding a Sheffield bound service. Splitting my trip home here had been just about the only way I'd managed to get tickets today - which seemed strange considering how quiet the trains had seemed earlier.

At Sheffield though, it became clear that people were definately travelling today - just a little later than expected. Used my 'commuters elbows' to find my way to the seat I'd reserved, and settled in for a slightly cramped but far from terrible journey back to Bristol via Derby. Having thinned out a little in the Midlands, there were large crowds waiting to board for the run down to Penzance when we arrived at Temple Meads. Over the platform for the unit home. This looked to be busy too, and caused further confusion when it stopped short in platform 5 and caused the entire assembled crowd to rush, jostle and force their way along the platform towards it. Found a quiet seat and reflected on my journey - well over 500 miles of travel, with incredibly varied sights and scenes. Back to buses and restricted journeys for the next few weeks - which will be all the harder for having enjoyed this kind of freedom!

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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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