Posted in Railways on Sunday 24th April 2011 at 11:42pm
Day Two of the Branch Line Society's big weekend away started at a much more reasonable hour, and I was pleased to find that breakfast and coffee were available at Crewe despite it being Easter Sunday. This set the tone for a nice, easy day's travel which was again focused on points east of here. This train had suffered even more than yesterdays with changes, mostly due to late notification of possessions, or odd knock-on effects from issues elsewhere. Thus, our first target was Peterborough - travelling initially via the line to Stoke-on-Trent, taking in the very rarely used Alsager loop at the same time. With this under our belts we set off again in good spirits for the Midlands. The air-con had been fixed overnight, and things were looking pretty good for today. Then we stopped near Rugby....and waited. Waited for quite a while in fact. Our driver had realised that the route into the sidings at Peterborough wasn't set correctly. Credit to him, he reported this back along the train, with the message eventually reaching the Tour Organiser. Not all drivers are particularly attentive or bothered about the details, but this one clearly was. The instructions were clear - we were to traverse these sidings. And so a fifty minute stand-off ensued as the signaller insisted he knew nothing of our trip, but the rest of the world did it's utmost to convince him.
We finally proceeded into the sidings around fifty minutes late. It's testament to Gas Hill's persistence that this happened at all - because quite amazingly, given that we were blocking the flyover at Rugby on a day when a lot of services were diverted to use it, the signallers seemed content to let us sit there. So we covered the stub of the former Peterborough line as far as the link back into the Track Machine depot sidings, before reversing into the North Side sidings, not far from the alignment of other former branches in this once even more important junction station. Briefly back into the much remodelled station before setting off, very late but satisfied that justice had been done.
Our next reversal took place near Castle Bromwich Junction, again due to works elsewhere, but we were soon off and heading for Burton-on-Trent. Here things got very interesting, as at Barton South Junction we deviated into Bombardier's purpose built Central Rivers facility where the Voyager and Meridian units receive maintenance. Slowly passing through the site using Line 13 - usually reserved for tilt testing - we were quite a curiosity to the few workers on site on a Sunday afternoon. Quite an unusual bit of track, and again credit to the organiser for getting permission to do something so unique. After leaving the site, we took the Stenson to Sheet Stores Junction line to head into Nottinghamshire and the Toton area. I'd covered the Stanton Gate Branch on a trip some time back, surprisingly reaching the limit of the passable line - so it was pleasant to sit back and note the changes here. Surprisingly there were few in fact, with the area as desolate and abandoned as it had been on my last visit in fact. However, for some this was new track and it's always a good atmosphere on these trips when the excitement about rare track surfaces. My own excitement was somewhat tempered by the sight of the rows of redundant locos at Toton - an utter waste of usable assets which seems plainly criminal. Another chance to view them as we made slow progress back along the Mapperley Goods line into the sidings to reverse once again and head north to Sheffield.
Our business in the Sheffield area was with some fairly unusual sidings. Firstly though we passed through the station, entering on the through line before crossing to Platform 1 via the crossover between the 'a' and 'b' ends of the platform face. From here we turned east and passed through the former Brightside station on the Goods Lines before reaching Holmes Junction. Here the train reversed on the short stretch of line leading into C.F.Booth's scrapyard, otherwise known as Westgate Siding. It really wasn't a long piece of track, with the train barely clearing the mainline as we waited to reverse. Next, heading back towards the city, we curved away from the mainline once again into Attercliffe Sidings. This fairly lengthy branch has clearly received some attention lately, not least the installation of a new bridge span. What use it's destined for is as yet unknown, but it was good to see a survival in this area, given the evidence of long since removed lines around the Tinsley area. Reversing again we crossed over to the line tucked behind the now disused platforms at Brightside station, rendered unnecessary when Meadowhall Interchange opened nearby.
And so we began the long trek back towards Crewe, travelling via Heeley Loop - much to our organiser's very evident delight - and the Hope Valley, before skirting the southern suburbs of Manchester via the 'ghost train' route through Denton and Reddish South to Stockport. One last loop was traversed at Chelford - a veteran of previous railtours in fact - before we arrived at Crewe a few minutes early despite leaving Sheffield around 33 minutes behind time. It had been another successful day visiting the less travelled corners of the network - where the more prosaic bits of industrial line become our exotic destinations. Testament must once again go to Gas Hill for pulling off what other tour operators neither dare or desire to undertake. Lets hope for more of these trips soon.
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.