2017: THE MYSTERIOUS REDHEAD
Departure, arrival and changing stations and haulage in bold.
Having missed out in 2016 due to last minute changes of circumstance, my 2017 break was from Sunday 13 August to Friday 18 August 2017 and at least started at the seaside in Blackpool. The return journey was not finalised until Thursday 17 August 2017 however and also involved a change of train at Manchester Piccadilly and a journey through Macclesfield, home of the late great BBC Radio 4 presenter Brian Redhead. Where possible, train movements were tracked and reporting numbers were identified by means of the real-time maps online at Open Train Times
Sunday 13 August 2017 saw me leave Platform 2 of Cheltenham Spa at 1012 in seat F26A of Arriva Cross Country Super Voyager unit 221 123 forming service 1S41 for Birminmgham New Street, due to arrive at Platform 9A at 1049. Before departure, Arriva Cross Country’s 220 022 was noted at Cheltenham forming service 1V46 to Penzance while First Great Western’s 5T33 comprised 150 128 and 150 122 coupled together.
The newly rebuilt Birmingham New Street proved somewhat problematic to navigate as the once fully accessible enclosed bridge linking the enclosed platforms is now divided into zones by ticket barriers. However, I reached Platform 5B by 1101 in time to take seat F30A aboard Arriva Cross Country’s 220 025 forming service 1M30 to Platform 9 of Manchester Piccadilly, arriving at 1240.
As well as the Ian Allen bookshop close to Piccadilly, another shocking loss was the cheap and cheerful restaurant next to the station itself. Just when I needed a curry to clear my sinuses, I had to make do with Sicilian chicken meatballs, rice and some green stuff ( not actually unpleasant) at an upmarket eaterie called Leon. Being positive however, I was served by a cute redhead named Katie.
Back on Manchester Piccadilly’s Platform 14, I waited for Northern Rail’s 1346 service to Platform 5 of Blackpool North which, when it was diverted to Platform 13 at the last minute, comprised Class 156 units 429 and 469. While waiting I saw 175 001, East Midlands Trains 158 846 and 865 coupled together and the same company’s 158 810 and 788 forming service 1R74. Service 2F81 to Southport was meanwhile formed by 150 224 and 142 021.
Feeling better west of Preston, I noted the electrification masts and other infrastructure changes along the Blackpool branch and arrived on the Comedy Carpet in front of Blackpool Tower in time to see Peter Davies and his Calidus Autogyro (pictured above) precede the Red Arrows in closing the Blackpool Air Show. Most of my subsequent movements up to Friday 18 August were by foot or car although on the evening of Monday 14 August 2017 my friend Mark and I returned to Oxenholme from Lancaster at 2157 aboard Virgin Train’s 390 123 “Virgin Glory” forming service 1S06. The final part of the journey from Oxenholme to Windermere was aboard 185 128.
Wednesday 16 August 2017 saw Mark and I drive to the Yorkshire Dales Railway by way of Settle station where the new owners of the water tower (now their house) welcomed us to their garden which contains a restored local coal wagon. This was originally built by Charles Roberts of Wakefield in 1914 and was obtained unrestored from the Strathspey Railway in Aviemore, Scotland. The owners also suggested that we visit DCC Concepts next door and view their impressive under-construction 00 gauge model of the Settle and Carlisle line’s Ribblehead Viaduct.
On arrival at Embsay, former Great Western Railway 0-6-2T 5643 was waiting to haul our train to Bolton Abbey at 1330. This comprised three maroon British Railways Mark 1 carriages and Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Directors Saloon Number 1 of 1906. At Bolton Abbey, other – inert – locomotives included Class 47 D1524, Class 31 D5600, Sentinel works 7232 masquerading as the scrapped LMS balanced engine 7164 and 1944 vintage Hunslet built Austerity 0-6-0ST “Wheldale”, the last steam locomotive to work in the Yorkshire coalfields. Returning to Windermere by way of Hellifield Junction, Mark and I were able to photograph the ornate cast ironwork of the former Midland Railway station and watch the westbound departure of a DB Schenker Class 66 hauled train of Castle Cement liveried JPA bogie cement wagons. On the garden wall of the former stationmaster’s house meanwhile were two very friendly cats, one black and white, one ginger. They liked being stroked!
After the best part of a week enjoying the Lakeland scenery, I returned home on Friday 18 August 2017, in seat F14 aboard 185 135 which left Windermere at 1056. This formed service 1N27 as far as Preston at which point 185 104 arrived from Barrow in Furness and was coupled on the back. The combined train then ran forward to Manchester Piccadilly as 1V63, arriving at 1256. 390 131 “City of Liverpool” was noted northbound at Oxenholme.
The final stage of the journey was in seat D47A aboard Arriva Cross Country’s 220 018 which formed 1V57, departing Platform 4 at 1307 and arriving at Cheltenham at 1524. Also seen at Manchester Piccadilly were 175 010. 185 120, 390 119 “Virgin Warrior” followed by 220 030 (Stockport) 323 238 ( forming 2H11 at Stoke on Trent) 350 123 (Stone) 220 009 (forming 1M42 at Wolverhampton) Finally, 66 074 was noted on the Camp Hill Line between Birmingham New Street and Kings Norton.