Monday, 15 December 2008

The New Lincoln - London Train Service


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It was back in the early 1980's that I last travelled on what was a through train from Cleethorpes to King' Cross, on which I did a short trip from Lincoln St Mark's station to Grantham. The train consisted of a class 47 hauling Mk2 air conditioned carriages. Despite objections from the public and in Parliament, it was withdrawn and last ran on 16 May 1993. Since then, Lincoln has been without a through train to the nation's Capital.

One of the promises made by Stagecoach if they gained the franchise for East Midlands Trains, was to provide a through service from Lincoln to London. They duly created a Monday to Saturday service between Lincoln and St Pancras via Nottingham which commenced today (15 December), with one trip to London in the morning and a return in the evening.

So it was that both the LEYTR Editor's (myself and Graham) set out to travel on the very first trip, Graham driving from Cleethorpes and me having a very early start on the 0520 Stagecoach service 6 bus from Skegness. Thankfully all went to plan and it allowed me 10 minutes to make my way from the bus station to the railway station to get the 0708 to St Pancras on arrival at Lincoln.

I'd pre-booked our tickets on 20 November (ironically through the National Express East Coast website!), Advance Single tickets costing £32 each (exactly half the walk on fare).

There was just enough time to get a photograph
of 222012 at Lincoln before boarding. On the platform, were the Town Crier, the press and various railway officials there to see off the very first departure. The train runs to Lincoln from Nottingham empty to work the service.

A few "teething troubles" from the start as we were instructed to ignore
the seat reservations - even more necessary in one carriage due to there being no heating. We soon found a place, the BBC cameraman sat a few seats behind and a group of trainee Conductors apparently on route learning on a nearby table. An interior photo (complete with Graham's reflection!) can be seen below.

Still in darkness, we departed from Lincoln, the conductor announcing "Welcome aboard this historic first service from Lincoln". As we
enjoyed our complimentary coffees (one of the perks of travelling in first class), we were each offered a complimentary Celebrations sweet by one of the EMT managers travelling on board.

The first scheduled stop is Collingham. Platforms here being short, passengers alighting were asked by announcement to move to the leading carriages - this also applied to Newark Castle
. We then progressed to Nottingham. Another announcement informed us that there might be a slight bump as we were joining onto another train (222007). There appeared to be a few minutes delay before we got under way, now consisting of 10 carriages. Just before departure another announcement was made that passengers for Beeston needed to be at the front of the train, again due to short platforms.

After Trent Junction, we soon passed the site of the new East Midlands Parkway station. Work on this was well in progress. It was supposed to have been open with the introduction of the winter timetable yesterday, but this has been delayed, and it is now hoped it will be open for early 2009.

After calling at Leicester, we progressed down the Midland Mainline. By this time I was feeling a bit hungry, so ordered a bacon baguette. The conductors on the route appear to have to multi-task and I duly placed my order. Unfortunately, he wasn't sure if we'd got any sandwiches on board but duly went off to check returning about 10 minutes later. The bacon didn't taste particularly nice, but I was impressed by the customer service!

The toilet was rather impressive. Clean, and as well as the usual items, were sterile toilet seat wipes and hand cream!

After the stops at Market Harborough, Kettering, Wellingborough, Bedford and Luton Airport Parkway, we approached St Pancras and watched a Eurostar departing. Arrival at our destination was at 1010, just 10 minutes later than the scheduled time.

Trying to get a shot of Eurostars from the station itself is not easy, but I did manage to get this one.

We left St Pancras and had a ride on a bendibus to Hyde Park Corner to visit a German Christmas Market there. al as cowded as the one at Lincoln, we enjoyed a mulled wine and a German smoked sausage each, and
decided to have a brief trip on one of the remaining two routes operated by Routemasters.

Whilst waiting, I noticed over the road what appeared to be a distinctive building which I initially assumed to be the surface remains of one of the many disused stations on the London underground. Further researches have revealed this to be the original entrance to Hyde Park Corner station when access to the platforms was gained by lift. This was replaced by escalators and closed in the early 1930's and is now a Pizza restaurant.

The first Routemaster we saw was 627 DYE, new to London Transport in November 1963. It is illustrated on the left whilst working the service 9 from The Albert Hall to Aldwych.

Next was 650 DYE, new in July 1963, and wearing a silver livery for the Queen's Jubilee in 1977.

Once under way, there was a lucky opportunity to photograph 562 CLT, new in April 1963, picking up at Green Park on a service 9 to The Albert Hall.

Reaching the terminus at Aldwych, chance to get a quick photo of the Routemaster on which we travelled, ALD 913B, younger than those we'd previously seen, being new to London Transport in June 1964. It is seen outside the Warldorf Hotel along with a traditional red telephone box!

Service 15 is the other route operated by Routemasters. Here we saw WLT 324, new in July 1960, is seen on its way from Tower Hill to Trafalgar Square. In the background is the church of
St Mary le Strand.

Waiting for a bus at the Strand gave us the opportunity to see 218 CLT, new in December 1962, on a service 9 to the Albert Hall.

We made our way to Oxford Street, this time on a modern Wright Eclipse Gemini bodied double-decker, and walked around some extremely busy shops. One of the smaller ones, which sold a wide range of items from luggage to hats also had, under a glass counter, a rather odd looking substance in a packet labelled "Skunk - intoxicating and legal"!

With the failing light, crowds and traffic, trying to photograph anything in Oxford Street proved a challenge although did manage to get this one of Mercedes bendibus BX04 MYF on a service 73 from Victoria to Seven Sisters.

Suitably tired after walking around several hours, we adjourned for a pint at the Montagu Pyke on Charing Cross Road, a surprisingly quiet Wetherspoons establishment. Next it was another bendibus ride, this time to take us to Euston to visit the Doric Arch, a railway themed pub. Just time before to get one quick photo of LX06 ECE at Euston bus station on a service 68 to West Norwood.

The walls inside the Doric Arch pub are decorated with all manner of maps and railway ephemera.

And a very large model of steam locomotive 92004 on a shelf.

We walked back to St Pancras taking a few minutes to admire the extensive work which had been done rebuilding and cleaning the extensive train shed.

A quick check of the departure board saw the through train to Lincoln lusted, although no indication as to whuch platform it went from.

A large number of passengers gathered to board the departures to Derby, Sheffield and Lincoln, and it was 10 minutes before the booked departure time of 1830 the platform number appeared on the indicator and we were allowed to board.

It was again formed of two class 222 units, with 008 at the rear and 015 leading, the latter to run through to Lincoln. Curiously "Derby" was the destination stated on the blind!

Making our way out of London, we were once again treated to complimentary coffee and also a glass of wine. Normally EMT only allows one glass per person, but due to their being few passengers in our section, we were allowed an additional one each! The conductor appeared to be responsible for catering as well as ticket checks - it would be interesting to see how they cope if it gets busy and any passengers also require meals. Although these are on the menu, no mention was made by announcement of their availability. Scheduled stops were at Luton Airport Parkway, Bedford, Wellingborough, Kettering, Market Harborough, Leicester (where we saw the interesting sight of a Cross Country Voyager unit on a local Peterborough to Birmingham New Street service!), Loughborough and Beeston. At Nottingham, 222008 was detached and we continued with stops at Lowdham, Newark Castle (where we blocked the level crossing a few minutes due to the length of the train) and Collingham. Arrival at Lincoln was at 2129, just 4 minutes late.

The train returns as the 2140 to Nottingham calling at Newark Castle and Lowdham. After watching it depart, I wearily made my way to the uphill part of Lincoln for a couple of pints in The Peacock, whilst waiting the 2300 Stagecoach service 6 bus to Skegness. I arrived back home 25 past midnight, tired but thankful I had the opportunity to travel on the first EMT trains between Lincoln and St Pancras.

Saturday, 19 April 2008



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As has been the case the past few days, it was a cold start to my journey which began on the 0600 Connect 6 service from Skegness to Lincoln. Working this was Stagecoach Volvo B7TL/Wright Gemini 16940 (FX06 AOB). An uneventful trip, and I was to be the solitary passenger until we picked up a couple of people on he outskirts of Lincoln. This was good news as I was secretly hoping we'd arrive earlier than the timetabled 0738 so that I could connect with the Connect 1 service to Grantham at 0735. The following 0805 departure would only have given me a very tight 5 minute connection at Grantham!

I had no cause for worry as we encircled the bus station, I noticed the 0735 was not in the stand. After about 10 minutes I was getting somewhat anxious that it still hadn't appeared just as Alexander-Dennis Trident 2 / Alexander-Dennis Enviro 19121 (FX07 CLV) arrived. Passengers alighted and those at the front of the queue were ready to board as it pulled away up to the next stand! A girl in front told another that she used the bus every day and it was always late. Happily, sister vehicle 19122 (FX07 CLY) pulled up to form our service and we departed at 0748, 13 minutes late.

Travelling upstairs I had a good view of the surrounding countryside. After Waddington we passed Mike Gallagher's premises where are stored a number of vintage buses. Sadly, this suffered at the hands of a young arsonist last year, and a number of vehicles were destroyed including an ex-Lincolnshire Road Car Bristol FLF, the last LRCC example in the UK, the burnt remains of which can be seen in the photograph below.

Continuing towards Grantham, we caught our one and only glimpse of the sun and passed sister Enviro 19124 (FX07 CME) on a Grantham to Lincoln run.

Once in Grantham, we encountered Centrebus Dennis Dart SLF / Plaxton Pointer SN55 DVC on town service 1 to Alma Park.

Arrival at Grantham bus station was at 0900, just 5 minutes late leaving me with 30 minutes for my connection. For the intervening time I had a walk to the railway station. Engineering work meant that there were no train services to Skegness or Nottingham, being replaced respectively, by buses to Sleaford and Grantham.

Grand Central have been experiencing some problems with their HST fleet and, as a result, with one out of action, have hired a rake of carriages and two class 67 (020 & 026) operating in lieu of an HST set. I was fortunate enough to be at Grantham to see it pass through whilst working the 0757 London King's Cross to Sunderland with 67026 leading.

Time to return to the bus station to catch the Stagecoach service 602 to Newark. This was to be the very last day this route was operated as it was to pass to Centrebus the following Monday. Working it was one of the few MCW's still with the company, 15954 (POG 490Y), which was new to Travel West Midlands in 1982.

Fortunately, the driver had left the engine running and pulled into the stop 5 minutes early, so giving everyone a welcome break from standing in the cold. I took my place upstairs at the front as we made our way out of Grantham through Gonerby and then joined the A1 for a spirited run, until turning off to reach Long Bennington.

I alighted at the village of Claypole, and having helped an old lady board, had just enough time to take a photograph of 15954.

I had some time to spare so had a walk to the church dedicated to St Peter which dates from the 13th Century.

Time then to walk to the level crossing with the East Coast Main Line. Originally Claypole had a station at this location, although this closed to passengers on 16 September 1957. The original signal box has also long since gone, replaced by a rather unimpressive modern brick structure. One point of interest is that it still retains the original Great Northern Railway name board!

I was surprised how busy this minor road was, and the level crossing barriers came down several times in the few minutes I was there, shortly before National Express East Coast trains passed through at speed.

The Hull Trains loco-hauled set is what I was actually waiting for, and this day was its last booked working as it was on standby the following two weeks. The video below shows heritage 86101 at the rear as it passes through Claypole on the 0934 King's Cross to Doncaster.

I made two mistakes before I set off in my haste and tiredness. I'd taken the faulty camera instead of my main one. It works ok but the screen is broken, so for the day I was "shooting blind" not knowing what the results were until I got home and downloaded them. The second was forgetting to pick up my itinerary and timetables I'd printed out the day before.

I was rather concerned that I'd not seen the 602 to Grantham at 1039 (it was 1100 by then), particularly as this was working the service I was to catch to Newark and, should it have not run, I would have been stuck in Claypole. If I had my timetable, I would have realised that only services which call at Stubton go over the level crossing (one a day each way). This became apparent when I walked back to the village and saw a sign - clearly the bus turned right in the village and had gone direct down this road to Dry Doddington! Phew - what a relief!

Heading to the Wheatsheaf pub, a young lad passed me and said "Good Morning". Must admit I was somewhat aghast at such a polite child, and took the opportunity to ask him where the bus went from and he told me to wait in front of the village hall.

It was then time to wait for the bus, 15954, on which I would travel back to Newark. Just chance to get a photograph of it outside the village hall.

Arrival at Newark was on time, and I had 30 minutes for my connection to Lincoln. 15954 went into the depot.

It was replaced by Mercedes / Optare Prisma 23952 (R201 YOR) which is seen in the depot just before it departed on the 1225 service 602 to Grantham.

Also in the depot were two withdrawn MCWs, 15983 (POG 584Y) and 15966 (POG 520Y).

Another MCW, 15949 (POG 480Y) departed on the 1230 service 29 to Southwell.

Also seen at Newark was Veolia's Transbus Enviro SJ56 GCF.

My return to Lincoln was on Optare 47463 (FX07 LJC)

The 1300 service 46 is the last through service to Lincoln of the day, and we set off exactly on time. Although the two locations are only 18 miles apart, we were not due into Lincoln until 1425, as the service spends much time away from the main road to serve Witham St Hugh's and Swinderby.

The temperature appeared to have dropped and I spent the time between buses photographing anything of interest. Amongst these were Dennis Dart SLF / Plaxton Pointer 2 34185 (W185 DNO), having recently been transferred from Skegness deopt, on a service 29 to Skellingthorpe.

Also seen was Enviro 19072 (MX56 FTE), which was new to Greater Manchester South, on a 66 to the Birchwood Estate.

One of the diminishing number of vehicles in Road Car/Superbuzz livery, Dennis Dart SLF / East Lancs Spryte 33217 (V517 XTL), departs on the 631 to Sleaford. This was also one of the last 631's as the service was renumbered 31 on the following Monday.

I had planned to travel back on the 1455 service 10 to Mablethorpe and return to Skegness from there. However, the cold and tiredness got the better of me, so I opted to take the 1500 Connect 6 back to Skegness on which was Volvo B7TL / East Lancs Gemini 16944 (FX06 AOF). Predictably, whilst most people formed a queue, the youths decided to congregate towards the front to barge on. I've found a way to combat this by keeping as close behind the person in front as possible!

I travelled in the warm seat at the back of the lower deck. Back in Skegness it was time for a pint and then write up this blog!


Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Part 5: Stockport-Manchester-Birmingham-Wragby-Skegness


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Following breakfast, we left the hotel and made our way to Stockport by way of the 192. En-route we saw Trent/Barton Optare Excel 262 (Y262 DRC) working the 1015 Skyline 199 service from Manchester Airport to Buxton.

My Co-Editor was catching the train back and I had plenty of time to spare so had a walk with him to the railway station at Stockport. This was one of two stations in Stockport, previously known as Edgeley. The other, Tiviot Dale closed as long ago a 2 January 1967. Despite much redevelopment, fragments survive as does a tunnel beneath Lancashire Hill, from where the line continued beneath the present massive viaduct carrying the Stockport - Manchester main line. There was at one time talk of extending the Manchester Metrolink by way of this trackbed, but sadly the tunnel was made unstable by the building of a nearby motorway even if the scheme had gone ahead. An excellent archive shot of a train emerging from the tunnel approaching Tiviot Dale station can be seen here.

Sadly, time did not permit the walk to see the remains of the railway, so instead I took a few photographs of vehicles at Stockport. First seen was Stagecoach Meredes Benz Vario / Plaxton Beaver 42569 (R446 YNF) on a service 309.

Next seen was MAN / Alexander 22228 (X228 BNE) on a 192.

Also on a 192 was Enviro 19014 (MX06 XAO).

I took a 192 to Manchester and alighted near to Piccadilly station, mainly to take a look at the former Mayfield Railway Station. Whilst there, noted was 18033 (MX53 FLN), a Transbus Trident 2 with Plaxton President body, on a service 219 to Ashton.

Manchester Mayfield Station was closed to passengers on 23 August 1960. Since then it has seen use as a parcels depot, and a film location, notably for The Last Train. Unfortunately the building also suffered due to arsonists in 2005. It is still connected to the main line near Piccadilly Station, albeit the rails have long since been lifted. There has been talk of reopening it to provide additional capacity (for more information, please see here).

One remarkable surviving artefact is in one of the windows where "MAYFIELD STATION" can just be made out (I've enhanced the photo to hopefully make this clearer).

Leaving Mayfield, I made my way back to London Road, here seeing Stagecoach MAN / Alexander 22156 (S156 TRJ). In the background is the bridge which carries the railway line between Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Oxford Road.

Further along London Road, Metrolink Tram 1005 approaches Piccadilly Station.

Also noted on London Road was this gem, in particular the sign which reads "ENQUIRY DELIVERY SHIPPING CARTAGE & GOODS AGENTS OFFICE" - a remarkable survivor and, I suspect, links back to when the original London Road (now Piccadilly) railway station once handled goods. I particularly like the finger pointing to define the entry! The picture is a little deceptive as only the front of the building is in tact - see here for another perspective!

Taking a less than direct route to Chorlton Street, I passed Piccadilly Gardens and noted First Manchester's Volvo B9TL / Wright Eclipse Gemini 37307 (MX07 BVC) on an X34 service to Leigh, route branded "The Spinning Jenny".

After an inadvertent albeit interesting foray into the China Town district, I found my way back to Portland Street where I coincidentally managed to photograph Magic Bus tri-axle Leyland Olympian / Alexander RH 13653 (J925 FPS). This was new to Hong Kong Buses, then registered EW 9357 and subsequently appears to have gone to Stagecoach Bluebird in Aberdeen.

With 30 minutes or so to kill at Chorlton Street, I set about photographing anything that looked to be of interest. Firstly was Rossendale Transport's Volvo B7RLE / Wright Gemini Eclipse 153 (PO53 0BP) on an X46 to Rochdale. Rossendales website (click here) is also worth a look as a section for enthusiasts includes a fleet list.

Another interesting vehicle was Lancashire United (Transdev) Volvo B7TL / Wright Eclipse Gemini 2765 (PO55 PYP), route branded for "The Lancashire Way" on an X41 to Accrington.

Also seen was Megabus Neoplan 50129 (SV54 ELO), which was new to Stagecoach Bluebird in 2005.

Also seen arriving was East Yorkshire's Levante 61 (YX07 HJC) on the 0830 service 390 from Hull DOcks to Manchester.

I boarded my coach, the National Express service 325 to Birmingham and we departed exactly on time at 1250. The vehicle was Veolia's YR52 VFB, a Scania with Van Hool Alizee body - sadly not the Scania PB I was hoping for. I chose my seat towards the front of the lightly loaded coach to avoid a screaming baby towards the rear - not that it made much difference as it was that loud! The driver announced the toilet was out of action having been damaged by passengers on the inward route - happily I didn't need to use it.

First calling point was Manchester Airport (retracing my steps from two days earlier). Here was Stagecoach 17655 (V155 OFT), a Dennis Trident 2 with Alexander ALX400 body on a service 105 to Manchester.

Hayton's Scania / Berkhof YN06 TFY was also noted on the 1115 National Express service 325 from Birmingham to Manchester.

The following stop was at Stoke-on-Trent - unfortunately I wasn't ideally positioned to get a photograph, so did one of some vehicles parked up through the opposite window.

The lack of the toilet meant a 10 minute unscheduled stop at the Stafford services, happily allowing me time to get a photograph of the coach.

Even with the brief delay of the toilet stop, we managed to arrive a few minutes early at the Coach Station in Birmingham. This was my first visit to the temporary premises which replace the now demolished Digbeth Coach Station, closed in November 2007.

The interior of the Waiting Area in Birmingham Coach Station. A new coach station will open in 2010.

Amongst the vehicles there was Go Northern's 7081 (Y781 MFT), a Volvo B10M-62 / Plaxton Paragon, which was working the 1000 National Express service 531 from Plymouth to Newcastle.
Also seen was East Yorkshire Motor Services Levante 66 (YX07 HJJ) on the 1125 National Express service 322 from Swansea to Hull.

I joined the 339 on its long cross-country journey from Westward Ho! to Grimsby on which was First Devon & Cornwall Volvo B2M / Plaxton Panther WK52 SVV. As per usual, we left with every seat taken.

One thing that did surprise me was the route taken from the Coach Station which went past the former Curzon Street Railway Station, the very first station to open in Birmingham.

At Leicester, the majority of passengers alighted leaving the rest of us to spread out and enjoy the refreshment break, also allowing me time to get a quick photo of the coach.

Wragby was reached in good time, and I had a well earnt pint, then returned home to Skegness - coincedentally back on Stagecoach 16940, the very first vehicle I had set out on five days earlier!