Thursday, 20 October 2016

A Few Hours In Peterborough Part 2

In Part One I looked at the somewhat mundane bus scene in Peterborough. Now to the rail side, which certainly from a personal point of view was far more interesting.

First of all I had to get there, and I decided to really take the plunge and catch the first train out of Lowestoft, This is because of what was operating it. No, not a short set but an anomaly that occurs six days a week, but is far too early for your average enthusiast. The second train to Norwich on weekdays, and first train on Saturdays is operated by an East Midlands Trains Class 158, which then goes on to form the 0757 from Norwich to Liverpool. Quite why this is I have no idea, but since it meant I could stay on it at Norwich and not have to change it seemed the obvious thing to do. So I arrived at Lowestoft to see the odd sight of an East Midlands train as far East from the Midlands as it's possible to get!

East Midlands Trains 158810 at Lowestoft
I confess to liking 158's. Always have done and this one was no different, fast, quiet and smooth. Have to say though EMT need to look at the upholstery - some of the head rests on the seats looked decidedly grubby. Anyway before I knew it we had steamed, well dieseled, through Thetford Forest and across the Fens and had arrived at Peterborough. Someone is bound to correct me here but to my reckoning Peterborough has seven different operators passing through it. Greater Anglia, EMT, Crosscountry, Virgin Trains East Coast and Great Northern all stop while Hull Trains and Grand Central pass through without stopping.

It was Great Northern that had a personal interest for me. Apart from the soon to disappear 317's and 319's there are also the Class 365 Networker Expresses to see. 15 years ago I was working some of these trains for Connex Southeastern, before they were replaced by Class 375 Electrostars and returned to Great Northern. Now history is about to repeat itself, as Class 387 Electrostars are cascading from Thameslink and ousting the current stock. The 365's were destined for Great Western, but the new Electrostars there has put pay to that idea. The 365's are highly underrated trains and there must be use for them somewhere. Here is 365516 looking a bit different to 15 years ago, with a 317 at Peterborough on Saturday.

365516 at Peterborough
I have happy memories of the 365's and later when 365508/15 came in together, a combination I would have worked many times I did get rather nostalgic. Just a shame their interiors look more like hospital waiting rooms now than the cosy, warm interiors they had originally.

However there were other attractions to be seen, and just after I arrived it was announced a charter train was going to stop en route to Scarborough. Excellent, your trusty reporter thought, steam? 37's? 47's even? Sadly no, nothing nearly as exciting. A pair of sheds, Class 66's to normal people. Slight anticlimax there!
Looks so wrong doesn't it!
But I had come to see something far better than a shed. As I'm sure you're all aware this year marks the 49th Anniversary or the Intercity 125's, or HST's as they are now known as. I had seen a London bound HST from Lincoln stop, but wanted to get one at speed passing through. It wasn't long before the 1000 London - Inverness service roared through, with the sun making a rare appearance to show it in its majesty as it headed North. 43296 is the loco on the rear

VTEC 43296 heading North
Now obviously you would expect me to have a video of  the HST's and the pic above is a still from the video I took. I have combined the videos i took of the two HST's and a couple of Hull Trains 180's flying through into one video, which you can see below.

There was also one other treat in store. It would appear that D6757 enjoyed my review and praise of it so much it followed me to Peterborough, this time on the rear with 37419 leading, and gave a bit of a show as it made its way out. The sun was out again and at last I saw this beauty in all her glory. You can have all the Diesel Galas you like, and of course they have their place, but nothing, I repeat nothing beats seeing these magnificent machines out on the mainline still earning their keep.

I think it's just a shame VTEC haven't commemorated the HST's in the same way GWR have. A trip to Paddington might be required.

Finally a bonus item. The RMT have called off the Strike action on Southern planned for November 3rd following a request by the Royal British Legion. November 3rd is National Poppy Day, and collectors will be at all London Stations. Well played RMT - you couldn't really say no I appreciate as it wouldn't have looked good - but all the same a good gesture. However, it would appear the Daily Mail isn't totally up to speed on the dispute as the headline below shows. You can hear the spluttering from East Croydon (HQ of Southern) as I type. Now exactly who IS calling the strikes......

Oooookay that's all clear then

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Last Week of Gas Buses

I have been reliably informed that Anglian's MAN Ecocity Gas Buses will be withdrawn from service on Saturday 22nd October prior to transfer to Plymouth Citibus. This will therefore be your last chance to ride what I consider (and I'm not alone) the best single deck buses ever seen on these shores before a long journey is necessary. There will, of course be at least one commemorative post.

Anglian 100 in Great Yarmouth

Monday, 17 October 2016

A Few Hours In Peterborough Part 1

On Saturday I travelled to Peterborough in the hope of meeting an acquaintance who was down for a Diesel Gala on the nearby Nene Vallley Railway. Alas the meeting never materialised, and let's face it after sitting in the cab of D6757 the other night I had no need of a Diesel Gala at a railway that actively publicises its dislike of people just coming to take pictures. I'm not a rich man so sod them!

Anyhow I had decided to split the day into two, first half trains and second half buses. However I'll concentrate on the buses this post as there is precious little happening in the bus world at the moment.

Unfortunately Peterborough is also in the bus world, and frankly it makes Ipswich look interesting. If E200's and E400's are your favourite - old models mind you as MMC's have yet to find their way there - then you will be in mundane Heaven. However I had chosen the right day to go for something totally unexpected and very welcome. I had seen from the railway station some bright yellow Olympians frequently crossing the bridge over the tracks and when I had finished my business on the station one of them was parked outside the station on a free shuttle service to I presumed the NVR for the Diesel Gala. I was wrong. It was further than that so I had a much longer than anticipated ride on Decker Bus of Whittlesey M18 WAL which turns out to not be an Olympian but a DAF DB250 with Northern Counties Palatine body. New to Walls of Sharston, hence the registration, this Olympian lookalike, soundalike and ridealike took me on a mystery tour ending up at the East of England Showground where the horror of all horrors was taking place.

Decker Bus DAF DB250 M18 WAL at East of England showground
I confess I am not into models of any description. I prefer the real article, and if I was to ever have a model railway it would have to be life size. You can probably work out the obstacles in that aspiration yourselves. So to stumble on this was the stuff of nightmares, even more so to see it cost a tenner to get in!

I'm a full size train enthusiast - get me out of here!
I had to get out of there fast and luckily within a few minutes a genuine Olympian had arrived, and one of my favourite types too. With Christmas looming I may as well do some hinting - if anyone would like to buy me an ex Dublin Bus Olympian I'd really be very grateful! T570 EGB was new to Dublinbus as 99-D-539 and those Alexander RH bodies are just superb, silent and strong as Alexander bodies used to be before molded plastic infected them. Add a friendly chatty driver and a perfect combination was formed.

Decker Bus Olympian T570 EGB at East of England Showground
Back to Peterborough and the bus station in what had turned into a very dreary afternoon. First spot was Great Yarmouth, or is it Lowestoft these days - never know where the X1 Enviros are actually allocated to these days - 33821 which is on loan to Kings Lynn as a lot of the E400's are now showing the strain of being on a route totally unsuited for them and breaking down with monotonous regularity. Pretty sure someone predicted that around 3 years ago.

33821 heading for Wisbeach
Delaine provide the only bright spot in Peterborough these days now Emblings have gone, and their uniquely liveried Geminis always look impressive. AD15 DBL is a Volvo B9tl Gemini2

Delaine Volvo B9tl AD15 DBL
And here's the matching pair - AD14 DBL, also a Volvo B9tl

Delaine AD!$ DBL on break at Peterborough Bus Station
In case you're wondering no there doesn't appear to be an AD16 DBL! Anyhow apart from that it was all Stagecoach E200's and E400's. Even the Stagecoach Gold service X4 to Milton Keynes was operated by 61 reg E400's. So I gave that up as a lesson learned and headed back to the station. Sorry Peterborough wasn't more interesting but you live and learn. Might have to try and get to Reading for a better bus & train day. In Part Two my rail activities will be reported, including some old friends of mine.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Not Another Test Train!

The year is 1971, the location New Hythe Station in Kent. A double decker Leyland Atlantean is waiting its time before commencing its journey. A friendly driver is entertaining an inquisitive 5yo boy, letting him sit in the drivers seat, close the doors and start the engine. The kindness of that driver was never lost on that little boy, and 45 years later I remember it as if it was yesterday. Maybe that was the day I decided bus drivers were ok and I wanted to be one. What it most definitely did was mould my own attitude to those people interested in what I drove or guarded. You wouldn't see me stick fingers up at photographers, if anyone had questions I would answer them, if kids waved goodbye at the train I'd wave back, or if in the back cab give them a toot and watch the parents jump out of their skin! It costs absolutely nothing. And yes, I got told off many times for having people standing up front taking to me!

Why have I just related all that? Well last night I was back at Lowestoft for yet another test train with yet another loco to die for. I had known that D6757, also known as 37057 was part of the test train. This particular 37 is in BR green and quite frankly looks amazing. I was praying it would be at the country end of the train so to be under Lowestoft's superb lighting, and indeed it should have been, but due to a late start Norwich was bypassed instead of visited and so was on the wrong end for me. Or so I thought. 37219 looking great in Colas colours brought the train into Lowestoft.

Tim had ventured to Yarmouth earlier to capture D6757 and this is the result - makes a change to see them in daylight!

D6757 at Great Yarmouth yesterday    pic (c) Tim Miller
Now a little about our subject. D6757 was built, or rather completed on 5th October 1962 as I guess it took more than a day to build.  Spending most of her life in the Northern half of the country at tourist hotspots like Immingham and Gateshead 6757 has spent most of her working career pulling freight. The odd sojurn onto cross country work must have made a pleasant break. Twice named "Vulcan" she went into storage in 2004 before being bought by Harry Needle and restored. Now owned by Colas and in full time employment once again this mighty machine is pulling test trains around the country as well as charter trains and railtours. She also looks really nostalgic in the gloom - does this really look like 2016?

D6757 at Lowestoft
Just after taking this picture the driver came strolling up, and I was pleased to see it was the same chap who had been so friendly with myself and Tim a few weeks ago. He recognised me and we started chatting. In fact we didn't stop chatting for his entire break and I discovered he came from the "keep people interested mode". He talked with pride about a young Essex enthusiast who he had got to know on Facebook who had told him where he and his Mum would be waiting for the test train the previous evening, and requests for toots/clag that he'd been only too happy to oblige. He'd even taken the boy's picture for him sitting in the cab of a 37. One nice, decent bloke who said "We have to keep them interested, and it's no expense to make their day by letting them see the cab or opening the throttle as I pass". Quality, and the sort of bloke who is worth his weight in gold for the public image of the railways. And that's before he invited me to take a look in the cab. My first 37 cab visit and I'll be honest, I felt as though I was sitting in a working museum. I've been in hundreds of driving cabs but this was something else, almost a shrine to the sheer brilliance of the English Electrics and their longevity.

The builders plate on D6757
It was time to go, and as well as my usual video at Darsham I wanted something else, so I left Lowestoft before the train and waited at Oulton Broad crossing. I just love the way she looms out of the gloom. Must be said 37219 doesn't look too bad on the back either.

One of the quirks of the East Suffolk Line is that at night the car is quicker than the train and so I made it to Darsham in plenty of time to wait for the spectacular. The driver had promised me a show, and I think you'll agree he delivered. Once again I recommend listening to this over headphones - nothing like it!

What an evening. I'm not going to name the driver as there's always one Moaning Milly who will object to someone being nice, but quite simply he made my day, just as that bus driver did 45 years ago. Another test train in 4 weeks time and if he's on it again I'll be there. An iconic loco being driven by a legend.  Nice combination.

I'm off to Peterborough for a double header trip - half at the rail station and half at the bus station or near to it anyway. There's also a diesel gala taking place nearby but who needs that! It won't get close to last night. I will though have something about buses to post for once - it is so quiet on the bus front right now I just don't have anything to post. Hope it picks up soon.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Not So Bootiful Now Maybe

First of all just to reaffirm that the strike planned for Monday 10th October on Ipswich Buses has been cancelled. Agreement has been reached, however, there will still be some services operated by Suffolk County Council - the 111/173/174 - so some odd workings will still be in evidence. Thanks to all those who commented and updated the previous post - welcome back Smurf!

Now to today's topic. Who can forget this line up at Caister Rd a couple of years ago


This line up was arranged for us in December 2014, and shows the afternoon run out for Bernard Matthews, which is obviously at its peak in November and December. The revenue helps maintain several of the lesser used services in Yarmouth and Lowestoft. However, as you may know Bernard Matthews ha recently been sold to the Two Sisters Group. What isn't so widely known is that BM was in administration before being sold, and only the business was sold, not the debts. This mean many local businesses are going to lose out. It has also been revealed that currently the two BM plants are operating at very low capacity, with only a skeleton workforce needed. The ripple effect of this could be on a tsunami scale

This is worrying. At this time of year the factories should be buzzing with pre Christmas production. Many buses should be needed to ferry the workers to and from the sites. The fact it's not could have serious repercussions for the travelling public of the region. My investigations have discovered that First were paid just before BM went into administration so it's not the fact they are owed much, but the demand for buses is so low for the time of year. Without this revenue First could be forced to axe services in Yarmouth and Lowestoft and who knows where else to spread the cost. We all need to keep fingers crossed that Two Sisters realise Christmas is coming and the great British public will be wanting their traditional fayre. If they don't this Christmas could prove to be a right turkey lasting far longer than the sandwiches do.

It is officially leaf fall season, where the trees of the land take revenge on everyone and aim their tired leaves directly onto the rail network, forming mulch that even the most costly of new trains can't handle. And so Network Rail's fleet of Rail Head Treatment Trains can be seen at all hours of day and night, mainly night, spraying the rails with anti leaf antifreeze materials as well as blasting the mulch from the line. In the past the class 20's and 57's have been used for this task, but this year looks a little more mundane. Ubiquitous Class 66 "Sheds" have been spotted, all be they rarer DRS examples, but intriguingly a couple of extra Class 68's have been seen at Norwich this weekend. There isn't a 66 in the world that would force me out of bed in the dead of night to picture them doing RHTT work, but a couple of 68's might just do that, so watch this space. UPDATE: it seems 68's won't be operating RHTT trains but 37's might, and you all know about my love of 37's.....

One little piece of trivia - I was at Southwold on Friday when something rather unusual honed into view. What had escaped everyone's radar is that First Lowestoft currently have on loan Ipswich B7rle 66850. According to the extremely friendly and jovial Lowestoft driver (yes I know what you're thinking) it had been there over a week. No idea how long it's there for but it would appear the Lowestoft drivers are getting rather bored of being asked if they're going to Ipswich!

First Ipswich 66850 at Southwold on the 99 to Lowestoft

 And that is about it, a really slow news week. Hopefully this week will be a bit more newsworthy. Take care everyone.