Wednesday, 18 January 2017

What Went Wrong With The 7?

At last some news to report. Sadly it's not good news as it was announced on Norwich Bus Page yesterday that Konect are cancelling the 7 between Norwich and Great Yarmouth as of March 12th. At the same time the 73 between Wroxham and Yarmouth, and the 72 between Norwich and Yarmouth via Blofield will also bite the dust. So what has gone wrong? Why could the 7 never match the X1? We need to go back in time.

Initially Anglian had the aptly named A47, which provided a useful hourly service between Norwich and Great Yarmouth via Thorpe, Brundall, Blofield and Acle. From my understanding it was pretty well used. Then the X47 came along, which tried to compete with the established X1. Eventually Go Ahead decided to axe the community serving A47, to much chagrin I seem to remember, and throw all their eggs in one basket. The X47 was re-numbered 7, launched in a blaze of erm little vinyls, and proceeded to basically run empty all day between Norwich and Yarmouth. But why?

Now with Konect, Anglian Optare Tempo YJ06 FZK loads up at Market Gates on the A47    pic (c) Brian Kemp
 If you are to compete with an established service it isn't good enough to merely match it, you have to better it. At no point in the last 4 years have any of Go Ahead's attempts to compete with the X1 come close to matching it, let alone bettering it. When the 7 was launched, the X1 was operating a 15 min frequency between Norwich and Yarmouth, with two services an hour on the main Peterborough - Lowestoft run, and the other two services on the X1 "shorts". The Excel services operated by comfortable Volvo B9 Geminis, and the "shorts" operated by either coaches or very comfortable Olympians. The route went the quickest possible way. The 7 tried to keep the link to Norwich Station and Thorpe running a 20 min frequency using hard seated Scania Omnilinks. Trouble s they had annoyed the locals by axing their village links, so loyalty wasn't in abundance. The 7 took longer than the X1, was less frequent than the X1, the buses were less comfortable than the X1, there were less connections in Yarmouth than the X1, the 7 didn't run evenings and Sundays like the X1, yet Anglian expected it to succeed. It didn't.

So Anglian revamped it. The 7 was linked up with the 61, formally 601, to provide through journeys to Lowestoft, Kessingland, Southwold, and even Halesworth. Gas buses were utilised, and parts of Lowestoft without a through service to Norwich gained one. Things were looking up, but still not so much as a dent in the X1's dominance of the Yarmouth - Norwich corridor. I had a theory.

Any excuse! Anglian Gas Bus 100 on the 7 at Norwich with a dancing Streetlite.
 Great Yarmouth is a major holiday resort. So, to a lesser extent is Lowestoft. Anyone with kids will tell you given the choice between a double and single decker which one they will choose. The same old ladies who moan like mad about double deckers in their normal life will fight each other to grab the front seats upstairs while on holiday. No matter how good the gas buses were they weren't going to grab the holidaymakers. And still the 7 didn't run late enough to encourage those going out for the evening to use it.

Then the cuts started. The 62 between Kessingland and Halesworth was scrapped, the 20 minute frequency from Norwich became 30 mins, stopping at Lowestoft, forcing through passengers for Kessingland to change buses that didn't connect, fare promotions in Lowestoft weren't matched, and Anglian lost in a pretty dramatic way. Numerous routes in Gorleston were tried and failed and eventually Konect decided to take over the 7, extending the Postwick Park & Ride services to Yarmouth. Plus points were comfortable deckers with wifi and usb charging points. But only a 30 min frequency, extended journey times by having to serve Postwck P&R site, and still no evening or Sunday service. Who, exactly, was the new 7 trying to attract? At the same time Anglian extended the 61 to Barrack Estate, proudly proclaiming the fact that the recently severed link from the estate to James Paget Hospital had be reinstated.  Hang on though, did they actually stop to think why First had cut that link anyway? The 2 went an interminably long way round between Gorleston and JPH, so very few people used that link anyway. Change at Market Gates and you have a million faster alternative services. Why wasn't the 7 extended to Barrack Estate, in a loop via Yarmouth Seafront, which is crying out for a service, thus providing a direct link to Yarmouth Seafront from Norwich. It gives people a reason to use the service, gives Barrack Estate a direct link to Norwich - I'm sure the demand for that is greater than a bus to the hospital - and with the right publicity and marketing, not to mention promotions with various seafront attractions you might have a chance. Why not link up with the 8 to restore the cross Norwich link lost when the X1 split? But this is Go Ahead.

Konect E400 638 loading up at Market Gates
 So the 7 is going. That's that. If you work at Broadland Business Park and get the 7 from Yarmouth, and I know a few do, then you are basically abandoned. First take note. Another nail in the coffin of Go Ahead which has been a disaster in this region from start to present. Also worth noting is that there was extreme driver resistance when Konect took over the 7 as they expected P&R drivers to suddenly operate normal services taking peasants not car drivers. Go-Ahead not clearing things with drivers before implementing? Who'd have guessed such a thing!

While typing this post it has been on the news that the Supreme Court have clarified who has priority over wheelchair spaces on buses. It's wheelchairs, but if a buggy is occupying it the driver is not legally obliged to ask them to move. Ok that clears that up then. How about a notice that reads as follows:

"This space is reserved for wheelchair users, however if vacant then buggies may be stored until a wheelchair user requires it".

Alternatively: "Mums - get off your fecking phones, get your child out of the buggy and do some parenting!"

It was also revealed yesterday that Abellio have sold 40% of the Greater Anglia franchise to Japanese company Mitsui. This has led to protests from the usual suspects claiming it undermines the franchising process, including politicians from a party who conveniently forget we currently have an un-elected Prime Minister! Abellio, who originally submitted their proposals in partnership with Stagecoach have said they always intended to find another partner. If I was Minister of Transport I would be on my knees BEGGING the Japanese to come and sort our railways out. I read yesterday that in Japan if a train is 10 minutes late it makes the papers! There would be no rain forests left if that happened here. I welcome Japanese involvement in our railways and believe it can only be a good thing. They do not have the typically British "That'll do" attitude.

Finally I have been under the weather for a few weeks now, which is why the number of posts have dropped off. That and nothing to report of course, but hopefully over the coming weeks things will improve.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them?

The answer is Chile. I saw this magnificent coach on the Brazilian blog Onebus Fotos de Onibus a couple of months ago and immediately contacted the owner to get permission to use the pics. Unfortunately he was on a long sabbatical but today got in touch and I'm delighted to be able to share the pics with you. The blog is n the links section and I advise everyone to keep the occasional eye on it as there are some extraordinary vehicles out there.

Accompanying the pictures  is this article. Please note this article has clearly been through Google Translate although a power take-off would look truly spectacular and be a good congestion busting tool!

Marcopolo exports 32 new Paradiso 1800 Doubler Decker to Chilean EME Bus
Marcopolo delivered 32 new Paradiso 1800 Double Decker buses to the Chilean operator EME Bus, one of Chile's largest bus companies. The vehicles incorporated into the company's fleet will be used on interstate and inter-municipal routes in the country.

According to information from the export manager of Marcopolo, Ricardo Portolan, the Chilean market is warm and the main companies in the country have been looking for the renewal of the fleet this year. "Chile is one of the countries that most buy double-decker buses from Latin America. Local operators invest in more luxurious vehicles with great technological resources. The focus is always to offer more benefits to passengers, "emphasizes Ricardo.

Mounted on two different chassis (Scania K440 8x2 and Volvo B450 8x2), the vehicles manufactured for the EME Bus have a total length of 14 meters and a capacity to carry up to 57 passengers, of which 48 are in armchairs in the semi-bed configuration of 1.09m Width located on the top floor and 9 more on the seat configuration seats, located on the lower floor of the bus. All buses have 2 refrigerators, a liquid heater, power take-offs with USB roads scattered at various points in the salons for electronic devices, on-board computer, two air fresheners, heating, air conditioning system and system preparation. Monitoring and audiovisual with five monitors, DVD player and AM-FM radio.

The lighting of the passenger halls is all composed of indirect LED lights, which create an environment of comfort and sophistication. The LED's are also present with touch-trigger on the reading lights of the door lights, which also feature individual air-conditioning outputs, headphone jack and volume control. The foci also have built-in audio amplifiers.

Source: Marcopolo
Photos: Douglas de Souza Melo

Oh my! The Volvo at the Marcopolo factory         pic (c) Douglas de Souza Melo
Rear view                pic (c) Douglas de Souza Melo
Stunning.       pic (c) Douglas de Souza Melo
My thanks once again to my friends in Brazil for allowing me to share this with you - I do know First are looking at replacements for the X1 E400's at some point this year. It might mean a couple of tweaks to the route but..... National Express also take note - have a fleet of these as opposed to the Levantes and passengers would desert the railways in their thousands.

The second part of last week's Medway Running Day coming soon. Sorry for lack of posts recently.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

DDA Day Part One - A Step Too Far?

Never before have there been more bus Running Days over the festive period than there were this year, as the day the huge majority of bus enthusiasts were dreading finally arrived, and step entrance deckers in public service were consigned to history. Operators up and down the country marked the occasion by giving the old war horses one final outing. I went down to Kent to a Running Day organised by Nu Venture and was pleasantly surprised by the turnout, and boy did the memories flow.

Hang on a sec though - did I say old war horses? Sorry the 37's on the Short Set are old war horses - they are 55 years old this year. The final bus I went on yesterday, heading for retirement is 18 years old. That's not old. My car is 15 years old and I don't regard that as old, doesn't drive like an old car either. To put it in perspective there has been media coverage about the average age of the UK rail fleet this week. It varies depending how sensationalist the report is, but the general consensus is it's about 24 years old. That's the average remember not the oldest. If the UK bus fleet was the same the average age would be K registration, and there are precisely zero K registration buses in regular public service in the UK now. Some might say that's a good thing, and it would be if the new buses were any better than the old ones. But they are not. OK engines maybe cleaner, Chantelle and Kayleigh can wheel their buggies on board and be able to concentrate on their Facebitch status rather than their kids throughout the journey, meaning everyone else has to struggle past, causing delays, and some now have air conditioning - essential in our tropical climate.

But in other areas they are no better. Fewer seats downstairs so more people forced upstairs - remember when there were 33 seats downstairs - lucky to get that on single deckers now. Ride and built quality isn't a patch on 30 years ago, Brakes that "harness the konetic energy and return it to the batteries" - oh do shut up - just mean jerky brakes. New buses have had to be built at a rush to meet demand and I'm not looking forward to an 18yo E400 - the longevity just won't be there yet new buses cost the earth because builders know the operators have had no choice but to buy.. Operators have been forced to either buy new or make expensive conversions whilst binning perfectly good vehicles in order to cater for a huge minority of passengers.

Why couldn't the legislation have been less black and white and dictated that a certain percentage of the fleet had to be easy access, that all routes had to have a certain proportion of journeys operated by easy access vehicles and those journeys had to be indicated on the timetable, just like they were when easy access vehicles started to appear in the late 90's. Then fleets could be updated naturally, no rush, less expense, and perfectly good buses not needlessly scrapped. But no, common sense did not prevail and as such I found myself at Chatham with very mixed feelings.

I parked up at Rochester Airport - yes there is one - and caught a service bus into Chatham. An Arriva Sapphire 15 reg E400. Leather seats, plastic panels, rattles, horribly uninspiring. But something to compare everything else I travelled on to.

Bus 1 of the Running Day was Nu Venture's Alexander bodied Leyland Olympian F346 WSC, which was new to Lothian buses in 1988. It was driven yesterday by Norman Kemp, owner of Nu Venture and no it didn't feel 28 years old. A better ride and less rattles than the E400 26 years its junior and soon we were at the base for the event, Asda in the old Chatham Dockyard.

Nu Venture 346 at Chatham
I hadn't been aware there would be so many visiting buses, and my heart leapt when I realised I would be re-united with some old friends. First up was former Arriva Kent & Sussex Plaxton Prestige bodied DAF SB220 T916 KKM. I remember this batch brand new as 6 of them were vinyled for my local route. 916 was new to Northfleet, but saw work out of several Arriva depots before finishing its life at Southend last year. I'm delighted one of the batch is being preserved, and although I didn't have time to ride it yesterday I certainly will as soon as possible.

Preserved Arriva DAF SB220 T916 KKM
I make no apologies for going on a bit about the next bus. Long time readers will know I grew up in the Medway Towns at the height of National Bus Company, and the area was used to test out new vehicles as it was deemed very demanding. One of the types trialed was the Volvo Ailsa, and 5 were sent to Maidstone & District. In the history of buses they are unique. The only non half cab bus I can think of with an offside driver's door, front engined, and a front design upstairs that would have Health & Safety in a cold sweat these days. I've driven them and without doubt they are the Class 37's of the bus world. I'll go more into 5385 LKP 385P in Part Two

Volvo Ailsa LKP 385P
An unusual visitor was this East Lancs bodied Scania N113 owned by Hams Travel of Flimwell in East Sussex. Sadly it didn't operate any services but it was good to see it there.

Hams Travel Scania N113 X8 HAM
After meeting up with Stagecoach bigwig and old friend Matthew Arnold the next ride was a bit special. Nu Venture had two Leyland Titans in service until very recently, and New Year's Eve was A907 SYE's swan song. Again there was nothing wrong with this bus, yes the windows rattled a bit but the seats were comfy, ride smooth, no jerky braking and the old bus defied its 33 years of life, most of it in London. 907 is joining its sister 901 in private preservation and again that's good.

Nu Venture Leyland Titan A907 SYE
Farleigh Coaches of Medway sent along two Northern Counties bodied Volvo Citibuses. Again a bus I'm familiar with, having driven them in London their distinctive B10M engines with the unique brake noise made them great to drive.  FHZ 9600 started life as VC19 G119NGN and London General and has done the rounds before ending up in Kent. Now classified as a coach there's another potential 3 years at least for this bus on school work and private hire.

Farleigh Coaches Volvo Citibus FHZ 9600 at Riverside Country Park, Gillingham
That's it for Part One. Much more to report, with a Routemaster shaped Dart included, and I'm the last ever passenger in public service on an Olympian. Part Two will be up soon, and I will also be announcing the 2016 Steve Awards, and believe me it has not been easy this year!

In the meantime a very Happy New Year to you all, thank you for your continued readership and support, and here's to a very interesting 2017. I have a feeling it could be,

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Are The Railways Going DOO-lally?

Politics is all about argument. Sorry I mean rational considered debate as we see in Parliament every week, and more locally between Ipswich Borough and Suffolk County Councils. It is very rare for anyone engaged in such rational considered debate to say "I say, old chap - you have convinced me I've been barking up the wrong tree all this time, and I now accept that you are indeed correct in your thinking". Just doesn't happen.

In no area has this rational considered debate been more protracted than the current industrial action on Southern Trains. Driver Only Operation divides opinion more than the EU referendum did - those who are for DOO are passionately in favour of it. Those against are almost terrified of it. I am in the latter camp, and I will explain why.

So you're going on holiday, or a business trip, or to follow Ipswich in Europe. Sorry I'll keep it serious but after a nightmare drive to the airport you get to check in to find a bank of machines, no people to ask advice, or about aspects of the flight. A machine checks your luggage isn't overweight, prints your boarding card, and displays "Next Please". Somehow you find your way through the unsmiling passport control, and into departures listening for the automated announcement to tell you which gate your flight is departing from. You still haven't seen a human being to get information from. Of course the business travellers are ok with this - they do it everyday, but the once every five years holiday maker, or the old lady flying for the first time since her husband died and missing his leadership looks hopelessly lost.

Finally your flight is announced, and you walk the endless miles to your gate to see a gigantic Airbus A380 gleaming in the morning sun. The largest passenger jet ever, a monster capable of accommodating up to 853 passengers. Yet as you enter the aircraft there are no smiling faces to greet you, check boarding passes, make sure Ipswich and Norwich supporters are separated and don't spoil the trip for everyone, or help those less mobile find their way around. Still eventually a bleep sounds and the doors automatically close. Instead of the usual safety demonstration the pilot makes an announcement inviting you to "familiarise yourself with the safety notices displayed throughout the aircraft". It emerges that the pilot of this massive machine is the only crew on board. Sure there is a girl with a trolley selling expensive teas and coffees but she hasn't been trained how to deploy the emergency chutes. If the pilot or a passenger were to become ill, well let's not go there. Let's face it this simply wouldn't happen. It wouldn't be ALLOWED to happen.

Scenario B. You're at Christ's Hospital Station in West Sussex. A few commuters are milling around but you need a ticket. Unfortunately the ticket office is only open 4 hours a day, and not when you are there, so you are faced with a confusing machine that won't tell you the cheapest fare anyway. But with more luck than judgement you get a ticket and make your way to the platform, listening out for automated announcements telling you by how many minutes your train is delayed. Eventually a 12 car Class 377 Electrostar arrives - a 245 metre monster capable of carrying over 1,000 passengers, even if 25% of them will be standing. You find a seat, as this operator doesn't have seat reservations, and you travel to London without seeing a single member of staff. Oh sure there's a girl with a trolley selling expensive teas and coffees but she doesn't work for the operator as catering is sub-contracted so if anything happens she'll be of no use at all - she won't know how to open the doors in an emergency that's for certain. It emerges the driver of this massive machine is the only crew on board. If the driver or a passenger became ill, well let's not go there. But that is the future if Southern get their way and you can be sure others will follow. It is ALREADY allowed.

The industry managers and number crunchers say DOO is safe. However they have all failed to take one thing into account. There is a massive difference between being safe and FEELING safe. Not a day went by, when I was a Conductor, that someone didn't deliberately sit in the coach I was in as they felt safer. I did separate football fans, sort drunks out, move people into 1st Class if I knew they were going to be swamped with schoolkids, and yes probably save the lives of a couple of people who had violent fits on board my train. By co-ordinating the emergency response I was able to get them attention a lot quicker than had they had to wait for the train to stop because I didn't have the distraction of driving the  darned train at the same time.. I was able to warn a mum to get her 3yo to sit down whose head was at table level approaching a kink in the track that would have probably knocked the kid out. I knew where to wake people up on the last trains so they didn't wake up in the middle of nowhere. And of course, I was responsible for making sure the train was secure and safe to leave a station, and for evacuation if need be. I was trained to the required standard.

The job of a train driver is extremely stressful. They have to be alert for every possible eventuality, from obstructions on the line, to suddenly changing signals, to poor souls jumping in front of their train, or idiots playing chicken. They have to know every square inch of the routes they drive, where every signal, crossing, set of points, tunnel, emergency phone, braking point, dodgy adhesion locations are and countless other things. Do they need to be responsible for the passengers as well?

The strike is over who closes the doors. I took part in a similar strike on Southeastern when they wanted to expand DOO from suburban trains to mainline. The doors issue is symbolic rather than the be all and end all. If the second safety critical role trained member of staff is taken off the train it makes passengers more vulnerable. We've all seen stories of gangs storming through trains in South East London threatening and robbing passengers. Funny - that never happened on my train or the train of any of my colleagues. Of course if the criminals know the train is unmanned it's like Christmas come early for them. If I could see someone struggling with a load of kids and 5 suitcases I'd go and help them - apart from anything else to keep delays to a minimum. If someone blind boarded I could, and did regularly help them. None of this should be the driver's role - the driver should drive, focus on driving and that's it. Sure, they can release the doors, that's no more than putting the handbrake on but then they should be allowed to relax for a few seconds while the guard does their job of making sure the train, and its passengers are safe to continue.

Now that's not to say I'm against DOO in a blanket way. If the train is stopping every couple of minutes, with staffed stations as the majority are certainly in the London DOO area, and Underground, then it makes little difference and in any case the average journey time is a lot shorter. You could never walk through suburban stock anyway in the past so those passengers have been brought up with the idea. But not if someone is going to be on a train for a couple of hours. What about disabled passengers at un-staffed stations? What about my Mum travellng up to Leicester to see my brother. Who's going to help her? I repeat there is a difference between being safe and feeling safe.

Southern say they will not reduce the presence of the Conductor on board trains that become DOO. Southeastern did though. If our mainline trains were on weekend diversion up DOO lines we'd find ourselves having to get off at the boundary, and because they were temporary duties couldn't do a thing about it. If the safety critical role of the Conductor is not preserved then the operating companies will be able to remove them from trains at a moment's notice, and remember Thameslink are already entirely DOO. Who would you feel safer with leaving East Croydon on a Friday night - a train with a Conductor walking through making sure everyone was ok, or Thameslink with just a driver totally oblivious as to what's going on behind him. I know which one I'd want my kids to be on, let alone my Mum.

A few months ago a shocking story emerged from C2C. A train had stopped at an unusual location, and no one knew why. It was 40 minutes before it was discovered the driver had suffered a heart attack and died at his controls. The safety systems kicked in so the passengers were in no danger. Stuck on a train not knowing what the hell was going on but in no danger, so the number crunchers will be pleased about that. I can say without a doubt had I been the guard on that train I'd have felt the emergency brakes kick in and when I couldn't contact that driver been in the cab within a minute. We'll never know if that could have saved the driver's life but it does beg the question.

Sometimes you have to take money out of the equation, although Southern say this has nothing to do with money. OK. So why do they want to take door closing responsibilities off the Conductors - they have been closing the doors for over 10 years on those trains now. They aren't saying the driver closing the doors is safer than a guard doing it - it's just no less safe. If it ain't broke don't fix it, yet for some reason Southern do want to fix it, and it's no wonder the unions smell a rat.

It is also rather indicative that the public do not seem to be at odds with the unions, but are giving Southern all the blame. We had massive support from our passengers when we went on strike because they WANTED our presence on the train. Seems Southern passengers are the same. The striking Conductors, and now drivers have lost thousands in earnings in this dispute. They think it's worth it, and that alone shoud make everyone sit up and take notice.

I don't expect those in favour of DOO to change their minds just because of what I have written, but I do say to you don't ask railway managers or even journalists what they think - certainly not politicians, but ask the passengers. They'll tell you if they like the idea of DOO or not, and without the passenger you have nothing.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Norfolk Diesel Gala Part Two

In Part One (click here) we had a Class 47, an even shorter Short Set, some blurry 68's and an extremely good looking Norwich Red Line Gemini.

I have always said I will explore the Norwich Network more thoroughly once there are decent buses on it. The Blue Line was done years ago, I've done the entire Purple Line through necessity more than want, done more of the Yellow Line than intended due to getting lost, and the Green Line between Norwich and Brundall. The rest is a void in my education. Now there are a couple of Geminis on the Turquoise Line that stands a chance but I decided on Thursday to do the Red Line back to Thorpe as long as it was a Gemini. Luck was in as 36192, minus front fleet numbers First please note, arrived and I embarked on a route that must take a considerable time to learn. It's not scenic in the slightest and wild horses wouldn't get me doing it on a President but it's one to tick off the list, and the Gemini gave a decent ride.

I now appeal to the Head of Engineering at First Norwich (Chris pass this on please). Using current industry buzz words the "customer journey experience" would be much enhanced if rubber strips could be applied to the inside of what used to be known as "blind box doors" to stop the incessant rattling that the ill fitting doors produce. Wright's fault not yours but it would show consideration for passengers that many operators lack involving minimal cost.

Anyway my luck was really in. Due to traffic congestion caused by temporary lights in Thorpe the 24's were not going to their usual (and my) destination of Sainsbury, and so I ended up at the alternative terminus in Dussingdale which gave a great photo opportunity and chance to natter to the extremely friendly driver, who dropped me back off as close to Sainsbury as possible. So not only great pics but pics at a spot few will get.

First Norwich ex Leeds Volvo B9tl Gemini2 36192 BN12 JYS at Dussingdale
The nearside view
In case anyone is wondering what front fleet numbers I'm referring to here is a much more identifyable 36189 in Castle Meadow. Not 100% in focus as it was a quick rush job to get the pic.

36189 sporting the front fleet numbers
After another excruciating journey back to the car on another Streetlite (it's not the driving but the ludicrously jerky braking system) it was over to Wymondham for the Network Rail Test Train. Knowing what locos were on it in advance made it a must, although sadly I also knew it wouldn't be the regular driver. My old friend 37057 was returning together with a 37 I have wanted to see in the flesh for a long time - the Intercity liveried 37254. A few minutes early in the gathering gloom at 1530 the train glided through the station and was held at the signal just ahead, which meant some good growl as she pulled away.

37057 leads the test train through Wymondham
With the impressive 37254 on rear

The idea was to head back to Yarmouth and meet up with Tim to see the test train there, but I had used up enough petrol, needed a windscreen washer bottle the size of a swimming pool and knew I was seeing it later at Darsham so drove home. What a mistake as Tim got a photo opportunity one can only dream of. On the same platform as the test train with its two unique 37's arrived the Class 68 hauled set. This led to a glorious face off between 37057 and one of it's youngest pretenders, the over 50 years younger 68025.

37057 giving 68025 the look                             pic (c) Tim Miller
Which the 68 returns with interest                             pic (c) Tim Miller
To see these magnificent beasts together really is a collectors item, and at a very unlikely location. Didn't even know Great Yarmouth had permissive working (two or more different trains on one platform). But a great birthday present for Tim!

The two trains together at Great Yarmouth                         pic (c) Tim Miller
And so, kicking myself for not seeing that, back in Suffolk I headed to Darsham for my usual 37 thrash video. By this time the test train was running a bit late, and that had rather unfortunate consequences.

Safe to say I wasn't amused. Even less amused that despite sending the bid to Greater Anglia I haven't heard a peep from them, when Virgin Trains East Coast gave a chap a trip to New York when one of their trains bombed his video of the Flying Scotsman. Will try again!

So that meant my already long day was extended well into the night as I returned to catch the test train returning back towards Lowestoft. The time is 0130, and it's eerily quiet. I heard the train approaching at least 3 minutes before I saw it, but on the return trip it just glides through so no aural treat. Nice acknowledgement from the driver though, who must get constantly bewildered by nutters out in the dead of night videoing trains!

37254 glides through Darsham looking rather ghostly
37057 looking equally spooky

And that completed a long but highly enjoyable day. So enjoyable I'm thinking of taking this up as a hobby! My thanks to all the people I nattered to during the day, as well as the locos for still being around, a testament to the quality of their build.

A quick reminder to please vote for the blog at the National Blog Awards 2017 - full details here.

Have a good week.