Rail Report 2014

THIS COULD BE THE LAST TIME….. Departure, arrival and changing stations and haulage in bold.

To balance up the Beatles theme of 2013’s northward journey, here is a picture of the Rolling Stones (including Cheltenham’s Brian Jones, front right) as this could indeed be the last time that I am free to take a holiday by rail to Windermere.  And even if I do have a similar break in 2015, changing deployment of free Saturdays may suggest a different venue to Blackpool and its air show.

Although Stagecoach buses are common around Gloucester and Cheltenham, none of them have the markings of Dennis Enviro 400 hybrid with the fleet number 12231 and registration SL 63 FZN seen here at Manchester’s Piccadilly Gardens  2014_Last Time_Manchester buses
Before departure Arriva Train Wales 153 312 / 153 333 arrived from and then returned to Maesteg.  Cross Country 221 120 departed for Manchester and the same TOC’s  HST powered by 43304 / 43321 stopped en route to Paignton.  First Great Western’s 43029 / 43005 provided the motive power for the 0900 HST to Paddington
Cheltenham Spa 0900 C57A 170 111 to Birmingham New Street  In fact I occupied longitudinal seat C59, something I have not done on a DMU for almost 30 years.  170 102 noted at University
Birmingham New Street 0945 Platform 9A  170 514   350 120  390 039 “Virgin Quest” London Midland 350 346 to Crewe
Birmingham New Street 1001 Platform 4B
Crewe 1056   Platform 6 09 204  66 340  90 047 221 142 “BOMBARDIER Voyager”  350 372  390 136 “City of Coventry”
Crewe 1111 B 06 Platform 5     390 020 “Virgin Cavalier” to Manchester Piccadilly  Noted at STOCKPORT 175 010  323 237221 120 LONGSIGHT  142 041  390 045 “101 Squadn”
Manchester Piccadilly 1149 Platform 6   158 852  158 866   MANCHESTER METROLINK TRAMS       3072 from Piccadilly Gardens to Cornbrook  3004/3047 to Altrincham then 3052 Altrincham to Piccadilly.    HANDY HINT: Both Travis Perkins and Jewson in Altrincham close on Saturday afternoons but Tesco Extra has a fine range of wood glue suitable for securing catflaps.
Manchester Piccadilly 1516 A 46 Platform 14 150 113  185 129  First Trans Pennine Express 350 401 to Oxenholme
Oxenholme 1628  
Oxenholme 1634  185 008 to Windermere
Windermere 1653  
 2014_Last Time_Blackpool_Typhoon D DayHaving spent Saturday night at Windermere, Blackpool was reached by road early on Sunday afternoon by way of Carnforth and Lancaster.  Due to various issues en route – some related to the wind and rain left over from Hurricane Bertha – we missed the Red Arrows and Sea King Search and Rescue demonstration but did see the rest of Sunday’s air display against a leaden sky.  Contributors included the Rendcombe based Breitling Wing Walkers, Peter Troy-Davies in his Calidus Autogyro, the TRIG Team in their Pitts Special S-1D biplanes and Short Tucano from RAF Linton-on-Ouse. Sadly weather issues also meant that the RAF Falcons parachute team, Spitfire, Hurricane and Lancaster of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight as well as Avro Vulcan XH558 could not appear but we were treated to an energetic display by Eurofighter Typhoon ZK308 with black and white invasion stripes painted over its grey livery as a tribute to the Hawker Typhoons (largely built by the Gloster Aircraft Company) that took 2014_Last Time_Blackpool_Typhoon_invertedpart in the D-Day landings in Normandy 70 years ago in 1944.Having used 2011 vintage Bombardier Flexity 2 five section trams 007 and 014 to reach South Pier from Norbreck on Sunday night, Monday dawned bright but still windy, and as such remaining a challenge for all display aircraft.  Indeed, weather is always going to have a particularly intense effect on a show like Blackpool as it is held over the sea (low and high tide in turn affecting rescue options in case of any aircraft ditching) and is focused on the 900 metre stretch of Promenade between Central and North Pier.  As such, Blackpool Air Show always favours aircraft that are either slow or nimble enough to fit into this arena, many of them traditionally being historic and / or low powered. Fitting in to the 2014_Last Time_Blackpool_Typhoon_portfast, powerful but nimble category once again was another Eurofighter Typhoon, this time ZK343 from RAF Coningsby based 29 Squadron with a paint scheme to reflect the unit’s centenary.  This includes the red on white “Triplex” (apparently based on a misunderstanding over the application of “two exes and one ex” in the 1920s) and also the eagle’s head from the squadron badge of an eagle attacking a buzzard to symbolise air combat.  This paint scheme also marks the first time that the canards of an RAF Typhoon have been painted, these inclining forward when the aircraft is inert and 2014_Last Time_Blackpool_Breitlingparked. Apart from being an unusually weather-dependent and tight air display arena, Blackpool seafront also suffers from facing west so that spectators are often forced to look into the setting sun during an afternoon air show.  As such, photographs tend to portray the aircraft as being darker than they really are – whereas a similar event on Britain’s east coast would have light more conducive to good pictures.  Despite this, modern digital cameras allow photography on a “monkeys writing Shakespeare” principle so that as many snaps as possible should yield at least a few worthwhile images – something that would have been prohibitively expensive back in the days of chemical films and prints.2014_Last Time_Blackpool_Calidus_smokeSimilarly, digital photography can also be enhanced by computer software, such as the shot above of the Breitling Wing Walkers which has been slightly darkened and contrasted to enhance the smoke trail and cloud effects.  By the same token, it was possible to use the sunlight behind the aircraft to create “glint” on wings and rotors in the right positions.  This happily worked well with Peter Troy-Davies in his Calidus Autogyro, who used the wind to put on a particularly exuberant display of swoops and turns as well as hovering with smoke pouring landward!


2014_Last Time_Blackpool_Calidus_SeagullFormer Microlight World Championship star Peter Davies has been behind the controls of a gyroplane for 22 of his 32 year flying career.  Originally a helicopter engineer, he learned to fly in 21 days at the age of 21 and has since broken world records and won medals all over the globe.  G-ULUL is a German built tandem seat enclosed Calidus Autogyro optimised for low drag and a comfortable spacious cabin for cross country flights.  The design was certified by the UK Civil Aviation Authority in January 2011 and over 1 000 have been sold worldwide. G-ULUL is seen here sharing the sky with one of Blackpool’s older types of biological flying machine.

2014_Last Time_Blackpool_MD500_rearThe Blackpool Air Show programme had promised visitors an appearance by a locally based restored example of the Bell UH-1 “Huey” helicopter made famous in the Vietnam War between  1962 and 1975.  However, this was in fact substituted by a more rotund  McDonnell Douglas MD 500.

The successful Hughes 500/MD 500 series began life in response to a U.S. Army requirement for a light observation helicopter. Hughes’ Model 369 won the contest against competition from Bell and Hiller. The OH-6 Cayuse first flew in February 1963.

2014_Last Time_Blackpool_MD500_portThe 500 series design features shock-absorbing landing skid struts, a turboshaft engine mounted at a 45-degree angle toward the rear of the cabin pod, a fuel tank cell under the floor and the battery in the nose. The engine exhaust port is located at the end of the cabin pod underneath the tail boom. It has a short-diameter main rotor system and a short tail, giving it an agile control response and is less susceptible to weather-cocking.

Hughes won the U.S. Army’s LOH contest with its OH-6 helicopter by submitting a very low and aggressive price per airframe (without an engine). Due to rising prices, the U.S. Army later re-opened the contest, where Hughes offered the machine at a more realistic price, but was undercut by the redesigned Bell OH-58 Kiowa (the military version of the Bell JetRanger). OH-6 helicopters were still ordered by the U.S. Army, though at a much reduced number.

2014_Last Time_Blackpool_185 123Leaving Blackpool after the Air Show there was a chance to look at the redeveloped eastern part of the town near Blackpool North Station, seen here with diesel hydraulic multiple units 158 758 and 185 123 standing in front of the new and very dramatic Sainsburys, a superstore so big that it has its own separate multi storey parking.

2014_Last Time_Blackpool_semaphores_eastBlackpool North and the line to Preston is also due for overhead electrification in 2016 so time was made to record the impressive selection of mechanical semaphore signals guarding the throat of what were once just Blackpool North’s excursion platforms.  It might have been the last time I would see them.  I don’t know.


Windermere 0850  185 147 to Oxenholme
Oxenholme 0907  FTPE 350 406 to Edinburgh
Oxenholme 0912 A 46  FTPE 350 408 to Preston  Network Rail’s HST derived New Measurement Train was noted heading North, just north of Lancaster.  The full six car formation comprises 977995  975984  977994  977993  975814  977984
Preston 0945 2014_Last Time_Preston 156 480Platform 4  DRS 57 307 “LADY PENELOPE” 142 038  156 206  156 480 (pictured) 185 115  185 139 350 409  390 118 “Virgin Princess”  390 043 “Virgin Explorer”
Preston 1017 B35 Platform 4 390 010″A Decade of Progress” to Birmingham New Street  DRS liveried 57 309 “Pride of Crewe” 221 112 and 390 009 “Treaty of Union” noted at Crewe.

2014_Last Time_Wolverhampton_158Arriva liveried 158 831 (pictured)  London Midland 170 510  Cross Country 221 133  London Midland 350 233 noted at Wolverhampton from the surprisingly high level southbound platforms.

Birmingham New Street 1158 Platform 1A  390 040 “Virgin Pathfinder”
Birmingham New Street 1242 D 12A Platform 1A  Cross Country 220 020 to Cheltenham via Camp Hill line.
Cheltenham Spa 1324  

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