Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Back in Business

I know it's been a bit quiet but there haven't been any serious train trips lately. Watch for some upcoming action including a Luxury & Scenic trip to Lancaster  and , in the New Year, an epic round North India.
Longer term plans include a 15 day marathon around nearly all of Europe  in summer 2013..

Thursday, 23 June 2011

H'Awayday to the Toon 22nd June

Nothing too extreme this week, just a trip down to Newcastle for a couple of drinks with an old pal. Woke up to the filthy weather that we have come to associate with June 2011 and opted for a lift to the station. No point in starting the day wet. Squeezed onto the Dunblane - Edinburgh and got a fold down seat in the vestibule.
 Waverley was pretty busy and now that most East Coast trains don't run through from Glasgow we were kept guessing about which platform we needed to be on. Inevitably we had to climb back up to the footbridge and make our way to the outermost edge (Platform 8). Our coach was almost full but at least there were no serious anti-social types. On balance I thought that the trip south was worth the £8 that it cost.

Generally the weather was pretty miserable on the way south although it did cheer up a little around Alnmouth and I got this shot of a field of poppies as we slowed down for the station stop. I can't remember a train south that stopped only at Alnmouth before getting to Newcastle. How odd.

 Arrived on time in Newcastle and met up with CJB. We trialled a few congenial hostelries, including the absolutely splendid Crown Posada as well as the Bridge, both old favourites.  

Nowhere was particularly busy but my recommendation for lunch took the biscuit. It was a tapas bar on a steep hill leading down towards the Quayside where I have dined well in the past. The only customers as we arrived soon shot the craw and left us to it in splendid isolation.

All too soon it was time to return home. I had time to take a picture of the front of the train before settling in to the luxury of first class. It cost a pound more than second class would have done and included coffee, a large tumbler of red wine, quite a good sandwich and a slab of cake. Good old East Coast. 

The weather was much better on this trip and both Alnmouth and Berwick looked very pretty in the sun. It is not easy to take level photos out of a train moving at about 100 miles per hour.

Back at Waverley I just missed the Linlithgow connection and had to console myself with a pint for 25 minutes until the next train. 

All in all a satisfactory trip but no records broken. Next time I must try to do every stop on the Tyne-Wear Metro.

Friday, 17 June 2011

SPT Roundabout Challenge - The Technical Details

Date of Attempt   -  Thursday 16th June 2011  Weather  -  Sunny with light cloud. Warm

Starting point - Cumbernauld
Train 1  - 09.10 Cumbernauld - Motherwell
         Stations  Cumbernauld, Greenfaulds, Coatbridge Central

Walk Coatbidge Central - Coatbridge Sunnyside   (1/4 mile)

Train 2 -  to Airdrie 
Stations   Coatdridge Sunnyside, Coatdyke, Airdrie                                                       Running Total  6

Train 3 - to Edinburgh Waverley via Bathgate

Stations    Drumgelloch  (plan was to travel on to Caldercruix but would have cost  45  mins for one stop)  R T 7
 Train 4 - to Helensburgh Central

Stations  Airdrie (repeat), Coatdyke (r), Coatbridge Sunnyside (r), Blairhill, Easterhouse, Garrowhill, Shettleston, Carntyne, Bellgrove, High St, Queen St LL, Charing Cross, Partick
                                                                                                                        R T 17

Train 5 - to Dalmuir via Yoker

Stations   Hyndland, Jordanhill, Scotstounhill, Garscadden, Yoker, Clydebank, Dalmuir         R T 24

Train 6 - to  Balloch 

Stations   Kilpatrick, Bowling, Dumbarton East, Dumbarton Central, Dalreoch                          R T 29

Walk Dalreoch to Dumbarton Central (1/4 mile. Time to kill, nice day)

Train 7  to Airdrie

 Stations  Dumbarton C (r), Dumbarton E (r), Bowling (r), Kilpatrick (r), Dalmuir (r), Singer, Drumry, Drumchapel, Westerton
                                                                                                          R T 33

Train 8  to Milngavie

             Stations    Bearsden, Hillfoot, Milngavie                            R T 36

Train 9 to Lanark

Stations   Hillfoot (r), Milngavie (r), Westerton (r), Anniesland, Hyndland (r), Partick (r), Exhibition Centre, Anderston, Central Low Level
                                                                                                          R T 39

Walk to Glasgow Central (not very far and some escalators)

Train 10 - to Edinburgh Waverley via Shotts

             Stations   Glasgow Central, Uddingston, Bellshill, HolytowN, Carfin         R T 44

Walk to Holytown (1 mile) to avoid 45 min wait

Train 11  - to Milngavie

             Stations   Holytown (r), Motherwell, Airbles, Hamilton Central, Hamilton West, Blantyre, Newton, Cambuslang, Rutherglen, Dalmarnock, Bridgeton, Argyle St, Central LL (r)
                                                                                                                                                  R T 55
Walk to Glasgow Central

Train 12  - to  Paisley Canal

           Stations  Central (r), Dumbreck, Corkerhill, Mosspark, Crookston, Hawkhead, Paisley Canal       R T 61

Walk to Paisley Gilmour Street (1/2 mile)

Train 13  to  Gourock  (my first trip on a class 380)

            Stations Paisley Gilmour Street, Paisley St James, Bishopton                                                R T  64

Train 14 to Glasgow Central

            Stations  Paisley St James (r), Paisley G S (r)

Train 15 to Largs

          Stations  Johnston, Miliken Park                                                                                        R T 66

28 minute wait for return. Not all trains stop at Miliken Park

Train 16 to Glasgow Central (non-stop from paisley GS)

        Stations Johnston (r), Paisley GS (r)  with a one minute connection to
Train 17 to Glasgow Central

        Stations  Hillington West, Hillington East, Cardonald, Glasgow Central (r)                                     R T 69

Train 18 to Neilston via Queens Park

      Stations  Pollockshields East, Queens Park, Crosshill, Mount Florida, Cathcart, Muirend, Williamwood, Whitecraigs, Patterton, Neilston
                                                                                                                                                         R T 79
 Walk to Barrhead  (2 miles)

Train 19 to Glasgow Central (stopping)                       
Stations   Barrhead, Nitshill, Priesthill & Darnley, Kennishead, Pollockshaws West, Crossmyloof, Central (r) R T 85

Train 20 to Newton via Maxwell Park

Stations  Pollockshields West, Maxwell Park, Shawlands, Pollockshaws East, Langside, Kings Park, Croftfoot, Burnside, Kirkhill, Newton
                                                                                                                                            R T 95

Train 21 is train 20 reversed. Bad planning but no real option to get back to Central

Train 22 to Whifflet

          Stations  Carmyle, Mount Vernon, Baillieston, Bargeddie, Kirkwood, Whifflet      RT 101

Train 23 to Cumbernauld

Stations  Coatbridge Central (r), Greenfaulds (r)

Train 24  to Glasgow Queen Street - very ambitious 1 minute connection missed so 30 mins wait at Greenfaulds

      Stations   Gartcosh, Stepps, Springburn, Glasgow Queen Street                                             RT 105

Train 25 to 23.00  Edinburgh via Falkirk High

Stations   Croy. ( A bit of a bonus as these trains usually don't stop here. Conductor accepted Roundabout and only charged my single home to Linlithgow from Croy)

                                                                                                   Final Total   106
Stations missed out

All of Subway - 15 in Total

East Kilbride branch - Thornliebank, Giffnock, Clarkston, Busby, Thorntonhall, Hairmyres, East Kilbride   -  7 in total

Bellgrove branch on Queen Street LL line - Duke Street, Alexandra Parade, Barnhill  - 3 in tot.

Queen St to Anniesland - Ashfield, Possilpark, Gilsochill, Summerston, Maryhill, Kelvindale,   6 in total

Caldercruix, Bishopbriggs, Lenzie

Total number not visited = 34 out of 140.  Must do better.

Record claimed but no cigar

Well that was my first serious effort at the SPT Roundabout Challenge (Thursday 16th June 2011).  I finished quite a long way short of a 100% result and learned a few lessons that should give me a chance of beating my score of 106 stations out of 140 on my next attempt.  Oh yes! There will be future attempts.

My first train from my first station left Cumbernauld at 9.10 and my last station stop was at Croy at 23.13. In total I travelled on 25 different trains including a few of the rather smart new class 380 electrics. Most trains were on time and I only missed one connection but that did cost half an hour on a lonely platform with a plague of midges. The fact that it was a nice sunny day helped as it made the sections where I walked between stations quite pleasant. Somehow I finished up with a large blister on my heel - must be going soft.

I realise with hindsight that I started the attempt from the wrong place and that I wasted a lot of time at small stations at the extremities of the ticket coverage where not every train stopped. There was too much backtracking and several stations got visited more than twice - not very efficient. Euler would not have been impressed. I missed the 15 low hanging fruit on the Subway - not good planning,

I will put up a separate post with the boring detail for anybody who is a real geek but BE AWARE.

Until I hear otherwise I am claiming the SPT Roundabout Challenge record for most stations visited on one ticket.

Monday, 13 June 2011

The SPT Roundabout Challenge - Theory

For my next Rail Challenge I decided that I need something a bit easier on the wallet.  Hence the SPT Roundabout Challenge.

This challenge is  based on a one day Off Peak Roundabout ticket costing £5.60 and allowing unlimited travel on the Glasgow Subway and large parts of the Glasgow Suburban Railway network. 

According to the current leaflet the ticket covers 125 stations on the suburban network and 15 on the Subway. This count lists Central Low Level and Queen Street Low level as separate stations.

The aim is to visit every station during a day. A visit involves either getting on or off a train at the station or travelling on a train while it stops at the station. The nature of the network means that steps will have to be retraced. Walking between stations is permitted.

This challenge is not to be confused with the Glasgow Subcrawl.
See this link https://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=10456306183

I plan to have a go at the Roundabout Challenge on Thursday 16th June.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Rail Mini Marathon Day 3

Thursday 9th
Again I woke up a couple of times, including once during the splitting up of the train at Waverley. We must have taken an interesting route between Edinburgh and Glasgow as I woke up in time to see us pass through Springburn station before regaining the normal West Highland route at Cowlairs. The weather was a bit better than yesterday and there was plenty of scenery.
After breakfast in my cabin I adjourned to the lounge car, now magically the carriage next to mine, to get a better all round view. Taking advantage of the drop windows in these older coaches I got a few photos of Loch Treig and the Monnessie Gorges as the train ran down towards Fort William. 

As we arrived at FW The Great Marquess was waiting to to take the Jacobite tourist train out to Mallaig. It was raining a bit but I did manage to get a few shots. 

The first class coach is called Alexandra. Despite the rain the High Street was awash in buskers. The Tourist Office had an internet cafe so I indulged in 20 minutes worth to update my progress and then went lunch shopping in Tesco. I also treated myself to an Ian Rankin paperback from a charity shop as "The Ghost" had not lasted as long as I had expected. There was quite a crowd shivering on the platform and i was glad that I had a reserved seat. Once again the train was four coaches pretty well filled, although the lady in the seat opposite me decided to move once we were under way so I got the chance to stretch my legs out. I didn't think that I smelled that bad - today was a clean t shirt day. The return to Glasgow was rather uneventful and on time allowing me to catch the 15.45 Edinburgh via Linlithgow.
I have wanted to do the Fort William sleeper trip for a long time and thoroughly enjoyed it.  If I have done my sums right I travelled just over 1400 miles on Network Rail. It is not easy to work out how far I travelled on the Overground, Underground and Tram Link  but it was probably another 200 miles. Perhaps next time I will look at Inverness to London. And a full Docklands Light Railway itinerary.

Rail Mini Marathon - Day 2

Wednesday 8th
Sleep disturbed a couple of times in the night, including during the shunting at Waverley, but woke refreshed at about 6 a.m to a sunny day. With the aid of my trusty track plans I soon worked out that we were on the Trent Valley line around Rugeley. Our progress was occasionally delayed by signals as we made way for the early morning expresses from Birmingham. Breakfast was prompt at 6.45 complete with airline style fry up but with real cutlery and crockery. Not a bad effort. By now we had our place in the traffic and were flying along. We whizzed through Berkhamstead without sighting Ed Reardon - a bit early for him I suppose. Soon we were immersed in the fascinating tangle of lines in north west London. After a short signal stop just outside the station we rolled into Euston dead on time at 7.47 a.m. Our 4 coach train had grown to about 16 coaches overnight, switched from a diesel loco to an electric one and changed running direction but it did still feel like a single journey. 
Now for the tricky bit. Before leaving home I discovered that somebody (Helen?) had half inched the pocket A-Z of London so I had to find Gospel Oak on foot without a map. I knew that I needed to turn left out of the station and then take the first left. The weather was beginning to look threatening but it wasn't actually raining. I started to look for somewhere with wifi so I could report my progress but failed to spot anywhere. After about 20 minutes walking I turned a corneer to find myself outside Mornington Crescent tube station. Was this an omen? I was able to check a locality map and charge up my Oyster card for later. I made my way through Camden and into Kentish Town by which time I was starting to see signposts to Gospel Oak station. These took me across a park and through side streets and passageways to my goal - where I was much too early. Off peak travel starts at 9.30 so I took a wander and found a cafe for a a cup of coffee but still no wifi.  
 Back at Gospel Oak station I boarded the 9.35 for Barking - a very smart new diesel multiple unit. Fended off the feeble texted jokes about Barking and enjoyed the trip. Looks like Boris is onto a winner. The train was clean, punctual and quite heavily used, although most people only seemed to go a couple of stops. Once at Barking I exited the station and immediately found a Wetherspoon's - The Barking Dog. A cup of tea and the free wifi went down very well. I could relax now that I had brought the world up to date. I returned to the station and found a Hammersmith & City tube waiting. 
 This runs on the surface in this part of the world and took me for a 4 stop ride to West Ham where I walked about half a mile to transfer to the Jubilee line to go one stop to Stratford. This is an enormous station, being totally rebuilt for the 2012 Olympics. There was a Richmond train waiting at the platform.  This time the train was electric with lengthways seating which made looking out of the window a bit more difficult, especially when the train got busier. Slight markdown for Boris here. 
As we made our devious route around north London the weather improved and by Richmond it was sunny. No time to dawdle as I needed to take the same train back for a few stops to Willesden Junction in order to change for Clapham Junction. On this leg of the journey I received texts from wife and No 1 daughter to say that Shelagh is in London today to celebrate her birthday. There followed a rather confused set of messages as Shelagh has changed phones and didn't recognise my number. Apparently I sign off texts in the same way as Dan the archaeologist. We agree to meet later at her brother in law's flat in Kensington. The train is delayed by signals and I miss my connection at Willesden, not a catastrophe as there is a 15 minute service. The high level platforms overlook the West Coast mainline and I spend the time in the sun watching the trains go by.

 Another electric to Clapham Junction which really is an amazing place with tracks and trains as far as the eye can see in most directions. No time to linger as once again I need to retrace my steps for 3 stops to West Brompton in order to switch to the District line for Wimbledon. This trip is mainly on the surface and while I wait on the open air platform it starts to pour with rain. I take cover under a bush until the train arrives. At the end of the line I transfer to the Croydon Tramlink, still in pouring rain. 
 This crosses south London on a disused railway track for most of the route and, again was busy, but people were only travelling a few stops. The last section was real tram track, running up the high street amidst the traffic. West Croydon railway station took a bit of finding but I got there in the end and had only a couple of minutes to wait for my final Overground train to Highgate & Islington. This runs along the London Bridge suburban lines for a while, then veers off and joins the old East London line which is actually underground, using the Rotherhithe tunnel to cross the Thames. At Whitechapel we intersect with the Underground District line, which is actually nearer the surface than the Overground line.
Since my last trip this line has been extended by bringing a section of the old North London back into use, which traverses the rapidly gentrifying East End at roof top level. By the time I arrived at the terminus the sun was shining and, mission accomplished, it was time for a (very) late lunch. The Famous Cock on Upper Street provided passable ham, egg and chips as well as wifi, allowing me to Bookface my triumph. When I retraced my steps to take the tube it was noticably busier although I did get a seat for my first leg to Kings Cross. The next hop, to Edgeware Road was definitely playing sardines - the Delhi Metro is a lot more comfortable. At ER I crossed the platform to a waiting District line train and travelled in relative comfort to High Street, Kensington.  A quick call to Shelagh and she gave me directions to Nick's flat - only a couple of hundred yards away. On the way I stopped at Tesco for a bottle of prossecco and had to wait at the checkout while a duty manager was summoned to check my Clydesdale Bank tenner. The house was quite full when I arrived and soon got fuller. The time flew, assisted by Nick's champagne and it was soon time to head back to Euston. 
 I made use of my entitlement to the Virgin Trains First Class lounge but their wifi was down. When the sleeper was called I headed for platform 15 where I discovered that my birth was in the front coach of 16 - a long walk.
 I then had to walk 5 coaches back to the Lounge car where I got the last seat. 
 As we got under way at 21.15 I realised that it was very definitely getting dark, more than an hour before it does at home. A couple of beers and a sandwich went down very well before returning to the cabin to type up my notes and then turn in.