Monday, 25 February 2008



Normally I would have opted for the 0520 service 6 from Skegness, but for the sake of a lie in, chose to risk the 0600 and a very tight connection at Lincoln.

Departure was punctual on board Stagecoach 21212 (FX05 GXK), which looked immaculate having only been repainted into Stagecoach livery a few days previously. All was well until 5 miles on when we reached the outskirts of Burgh-le-Marsh. Here we faced a diversion around the village due to the centre being closed whilst the roads were being resurfaced. This is the only service which, on Mondays to Fridays, does not work through to Lincoln, and passengers have to change vehicles at Horncastle Market. Place. The diversion earlier meant we arrived just in time to make the connecting service. Curiously this was not stood waiting as usual which was rather disconcerting. Eventually Stagecoach 33218 (V518 XTL), a Dennis Dart SLF with East Lancs Spryte body (one of the few still in Road Car yellow Super Buzz livery) appeared. The driver apologised saying that the first bus he took at the depot had "run out of petrol"! I'm not sure how long it has been since the company had petrol-engined vehicles, but suspect that it at least goes back to the 1960's and the OB Toastracks!

Departing at 0657, 7 minutes late, making up time was never going to be easy as this service tends to get very busy with people travelling to work. Sure enough we were held up by people paying with large denomination notes, although thankfully the traffic lights at the bottom of Lindum Hill in Lincoln, were green and we had a through run instead of the usual delay.

I made my way down the bus as we approached the bus station to ensure I was the first off, then had a hasty walk across to the National Express 447, driven by the other LEYTR Editor! Stagecoach 53004 (GU 52 WTA), a Volvo B12M with Plaxton Paragon body, was on this morning. An easy trip to Newark bus station followed, where work was being carried out to resurface one side, this meant turning around inside the depot compound. To avoid the road works on the A1, we travelled via Bingham to reach Grantham. Arrival was a few minutes late, but I would still make my connection with the service 602 with no difficulty.

Having not been to Grantham bus station a few months, I had not realised that the public toilets there have been closed permanently since last November. A notice on the door indicated where the nearest ones were, although not being that familiar with the town, meant relatively little. Happily I managed to find them close to the Grantham Tourist Information centre, about 5 minutes walk from the bus station.

I was now going to retrace part of my journey to Newark, the reason for this being to take a ride on the Stagecoach 602 (Grantham - Newark) service before it is withdrawn in April. On this was one of the last remaining ex-Road Car (originally Travel West Midlands) MCW's, 15981 (POG 582Y).

Departure was punctual at the booked time of 0930 as we slowly made our way through the town centre and passing what is now a Chiropractic Clinic, and formerly a grocers shop which was the birthplace of Baroness Margaret Thatcher on 13 October 1925.
Progressing out of Grantham, we passed beneath the East Coast Main Line.

Continuing along the B1174, the village of Great Gonerby is reached and the impressive spired church of St Sebastian comes into view.

For a few miles, the 602 route follows the A1.
Leaving the A1, we head towards Long Bennington where the 13th century church of St Swithun's can be seen, partly obscured by trees.
There followed a number of minor roads. This turned out quite an experience as these are less than ideal roads for an MCW, and I found myself airborne on a number of occasions! Eventually the village of Dry Doddington was reached, with the leaning tower of St James church is very much evident.
We passed through Claypole and encontered the ECML again. The village once had a station here, this being closed to passengers on 16 September 1957. We were held up at the level crossing for a National Express East Coast train, with 82228 leading the 0905 Leeds to King's Cross.
The delay at the level crossing was to cost me. My 8 minute connection was looking very unlikely as there were further hold ups with traffic lights and road works in Newark. Arrival at the bus station was late enough for me to see my connecting service 29 heading off to Southwell! At least I managed to get a photograph of MCW 15954 (POG 490Y) as it departed.
Fortunately, I had just 25 mintutes to wait for the Stagecoach service 29A at 1055 to Mansfield (which I was intending to catch at Southwell had I made my connection). On this was Volvo Olympian / Alexander RL 16482 (N132 AET). As with the National Express coach earlier, we had to turn around in the depot compound which luckily gave me a chance to photograph MCW 15983 (POG 584Y) in the depot.
At Southwell we encountered Leyland Olympian / Alexander RL on the 1050 service 29 from Mansfield to Newark.
Entering Mansfield, I noticed "Great Central Way", a reminder that many years ago the town was once served by this company, as well as the Midland Railway.

Mansfield is one of the few locations in England where the Bristol VR can still be seen, apparently providing transport between the town centre and a local college. My first glimpse of one was as we neared the bus station. Unfortunately I did not get near enough to it to get the registration or a decent photograph, and it! A full fleet list for Johnson/Redfern can be seen here.
I visited the railway station and recalled how, in the early 1980's, I'd first visited there with my Late father when the station was closed and the line open to freight only. Happily, it reopened in 1995 and the Midland Railway building has been restored and returned to railway use.

Whilst there, East Midlands Trains liveried 153355 arrived with ex-Northern Rail liveried 153310 on the 1237 Mansfield Woodhouse to Nottingham.
I had a lot more luck with another Redfern VR. Ex-Yorkshire Traction OWE 857R, which I managed to get a few shots of on my way back from the railway station and at the bus station.
At the bus station I recorded the many and varied vehicles there. Stagecoach is the main operator in the town.

Other operators came in all shapes and colours!
After 90 minutes, it was time to continue my journey. I was booked on the National Express service 322 which originated from Birmingham and was bound for Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Go Northern's Volvo B10M-62 / Plaxton Paragon 7081 (Y781 MFT) arrived, and with not many on board, we departed spot on time. Indeed, this was somewhat better than those on the 310 from Birmingham to Bradford as the Scania PB, YN05 WJM, was receiving the attention of Scania fitters and eventually managed to reverse in a poorly condition into the bus stand!

Making our way out of Mansfield I was surprised to see a Hunts (of Alford) YJ07 DWK heading in the opposite direction!We called at Woodhall services for the booked refreshment break, a very welcome 50 minutes. After taking a photo of the coach on which I was travelling, I made my way over the bridge. Here I also saw sister Go Northern vehicle 7083 (Y783 MFT) on the opposite run on the 322. Also there, was Veolia / Dunn Line Levante FJO7 DWF, which was on the National Express service 425 from South Shields to London.

We continued to Doncaster and soon encountered heavy traffic. Fortunately, the bus lane prove to be invaluable as we sailed past a long row of static traffic, arriving at the Interchange a couple of minutes early.

I had a little bit of time at Doncaster, so passed the time taking a few photographs at the railway station. Luckily I managed to see one of the newly repainted National Express East Coast class 43's, 43300 on the rear of the 1400 King's Cross to Aberdeen. Unfortunately the rest of the train was still in GNER blue! Not quite as bad as one that passed through later which was a random mixture of both liveries! It reminded me of 40 years ago when BR were going through the transition of having maroon carriages to blue and grey!
Return was by way of Hull Trains Class 222 Pioneer 222104 "Sir Terry Farrell", which departed a few minutes later than the booked 1615, although we regained the lost time on reaching Grantham. I alighted there and returned back to Skegness on East Midlands Trains 156411, still resplendent in its former Central Trains green!