Posted in Railways on Saturday 4th December 2010 at 11:46pm
The year has flown by, and it seemed like only yesterday that I was ankle deep in snow and slithering into work absurdly early as part of our emergency response. So, eyeing the forecasts with trepidation I'd expected this trip to fall victim to the weather. In particular, Scotland seemed totally paralysed by heavy snowfall, and it seemed unlikely we'd get anywhere - let alone north of Edinburgh. However, against all the odds and thanks to the persistence of Spitfire I found myself speeding up to Preston yesterday under cold, blue skies and with some amazing wintry scenes to enjoy. It seemed that the east had taken the brunt of the weather, and I was amazed to find the pavements of Preston clear and dry. It was a little different this morning though, as a night of rain and fog had left a carpet of slippery half-frozen snow underfoot. Allowed lots of time - which meant an even earlier start - and headed down to the station. The stock arrived soon after, and I was horrified to find "The Green Knight" in the rake. This coach, some sort of hybrid of First and Standard Class, is horrible. Narrow seats with no leg-room, but with full size tables which take all the available space. It was also very, very cold. Soon rectified, with a bonus move right to the front of the train, next to the loco. News from the east was that others had made the slog through deep snow up to Huddersfield. Things were going to plan!
The morning began with a fairly good run through Leeds and York to reach the East Coast. Services were heavily disrupted here, and we didn't see many trains at all on our northward journey. On some stretches, speed was limited to 80mph but this didn't seem to unduly affect things, and the locomotive performed perfectly given the challenging circumstances. Once the sun rose, it was clear just how much snow had fallen over this side of the country - but despite this, the word was that we were still permitted to head for Dundee and wouldn't need the contingency plan. Feeling sleepy and a little rough, I decided on a quiet morning and a snooze here and there.
Woke as we approached Edinburgh, amazed at the scenes. Cars hadn't moved for days, and the city was unrecognisable under it's white carpet. The station was a little chaotic, with replacement buses queuing down the ramp and turning on the concourse. Made a dash for a photo, then over to the shops for sustenance. Didn't really feel good by this point, but the idea of pressing on over the Forth kept me going. Soon back on board, and with a spirited start, passing Haymarket Depot and turning north towards the bridge. Fife in the snow was stunning, but it was clearly pretty cut off too. Taking the longer route through Cowdenbeath, we learned that rather than attempt a double run-around at Dundee with potentially frozen couplings, we would turn at Thornton Junction, with 47500 leading us into our destination. This would position 55022 for the long journey home. We arrived at a deserted and snow-bound Dundee station to find staff fairly amazed to see us. As the display told us "All Trains are Cancelled", but even this quiet scene didn't deter one jobsworth from trying to prevent photography on the station!
Slithered briefly into town, got a drink and had a quick look around. The pavements were treacherously icy, and surprising crowds were out taking advantage of the dry, sunny but freezing cold day. Tried to slog over to the supermarket but the road was pretty difficult to negotiate so settled for a wander back to the station to watch our train come back from the sidings. Feeling really grim now, and I suspect having fallen victim to the bug my nephews had been suffering from - although another theory about the exhaust fumes from the neighbouring loco had some currency for a while when others started to get sleepy! We were soon off again, heading into the slowly sinking sun and showering clouds of snow on the trackside as we headed back by the more direct route. A chance to catch up and chat on the return journey, between attempts to sleep off the sickness and headache which had developed. Again, no trains around until Edinburgh, where once again the station seemed to be in panic. I settled in for a sleepy journey south and by York had begun to feel a little better. Enjoyed the last leg of the journey watching Yorkshire and Lancashire pass by as we sped back to Preston.
Despite feeling grim at times, this was a fitting end to the touring year. It was good to make it up to Scotland again too, when it seemed almost no-one else dared to try! It's been a long and varied year on the rails, with lots of really remarkable trips achieved due to no small effort on the part of the organisers. There have been one or two disappointments along the way too, but many of the most the memorable things - over 2000 miles of Deltic haulage, a fantastic weekend in the Highlands and a truly groundbreaking trip to East Anglia - have occurred thanks to Spitfire. Thanks folks, and I hope to see you next year!
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.