Monday, August 1, 2011

A Buxton Blog - 1/8, a day out

You? You were at Cambridge? What were you doing there? Buying a tie...

I woke early and proceeded to catch up on news from around the world. Eventually I decided to get out of bed. Phones, netbooks and wifi are just amazing.

Off to the station for the 8:27 up, run with a pair of Class 156 Sprinters. Hi lads, did you miss me? We take off dead on time and traverse the non-welded rail at full line speed.

The tunnel on the up side of Dove Holes has a 20mph sped limit, and from the sound of it the problem is the track. The vehicle was swaying a bit and the stone tunnel walls seemed very close... Wise move to slap a TSR on it.

I'm a bit rusty on the order of the stations on the Buxton line. Two years ago I could tell how far I was from home even while dozing. Two years before that, same. It'll come back!

The Sprinter's heating is on... which means the locals must think it's cold too, not just the semi-sub-tropical imports. Apparently it's been a cold summer. Global warming, you know, like our cold winter.

Ah, semaphore signals... I have to force myself to remember they're the regular in-service form of safeworking. How on earth can the drivers see them at night? I'll never know.

Stockport, time to get off. People obviously aren't used to this, and the vestibule arrangement and narrow door don't help. I guess I'm used to metro-style services where people pour from the train onto the platform.

I have to change for the Trans-Pennine Express, it's a hard knock life let me tell you. It leaves from Platform 0 - why does everyone find that remarkable? Computers have always counted from 0 and our railways are all computerised these days!

Ah, the Trans-Pennine Class 185, my very favourite. When I ride one of these I can almost forgive Siemens for screwing over the state of Victoria to the extent it did. Then again, if they can build stuff like this for First Group and not for us it really just shows that they don't care... so I'll go back to never forgiving them ever.

The tea trolley just came through. Yes of course there's a tea trolley on intercity trains, do you think they'd make passengers walk all the way to the buffet car? Come on now! I bought a hot chocolate for £1.65 expecting the usual "small" size but it turns out to be a medium. And the quality is well up there with cafe hot chocolate at home. At current exchange rate it's less than $2.50 so this is pretty good value!

Actually the train is fairly well loaded today. There's a few empty seats but not many. Several people have luggage aboard, and since there's nowhere else for it they have it in the doorway. As a Melbourne commuter I'l also sitting on the floor in the doorway - but this is the cushiest doorway I've sat in since the carpeted Hitachis were withdrawn. Carpeted Hitachis... Westcode brake blocks... excuse me a minute. Anyone got a tissue?

OK I'm back. Sheffield, home of... oh something to do with cricket. Heaps of passengers get off, including most of the luggage - there must have been some overseas trip with everyone flying back into Manchester. So I get a seat. The seats in this thing are like V/Locity seats, but with tray tables like a plane. I suspect I raved about the 185s enough on my last two trips, so I'll stow me jaw and tackle and belay.

Meadowhall - a suburban station, why should this thing stop here? The Sheffield Supertram runs in the rail reservation, I suspect I'll have to check this area out a bit more closely.

It's amazing - everywhere I look I see vacant rail reservation, as if there's been four or six tracks through here in the past or as if someone thought they might want to and made the reservation wide enough. It's amazing. How can such a history-loving and generally luddite nation be so forward looking compared to a young and free new-world country?

Damn the soundproofing on this thing! I just saw the tail end of a limestone train, and I was totally unaware of the loco passing! Could be it was idling going downhill though.

Doncaster, where I have to change for the service to London King's Cross. Once again, it's a hard knock life. There are locos around. One (with a well wagon) is sitting in our platform, that's naughty. After a few minutes the stick clears and it takes off for points unknown. A Class 158 is waiting to come in. Nah, I doubt that's ours. We'll be getting a high speed job of some sort, probably (since we're in LNER territory) a Class 91 and Mk.4 set.

As it turns out I'm right - but the train was on a centre track and had to come over to platform 1, and the 158 had to wait for it to cross in front before going into platform 2. This is a bad way of doing things - either let the 158 go first (since there was a loco in our way anyway) or put the London service in PL02. Now we're five down, and I don't care to imagine how far down the other train might be.

The PA comes over and apparently I'm in a Quiet Car. No matter, I was intending to be quiet. And there's wifi! Woohoo! Let's see if it works... 15 minutes free then £4.95 an hour or £9.95 a day. Well it's enough to post a blog from.

And now if you'll excuse me, I'm on a 125mph train so I'm going to milk it for all it's worth. This doesn't happen to me often you see. Talk soon...


Michael Angelico said...

OK here comes part 2, and it's coming in the comments just because I can.

So here I am still on the Kings Cross service from Doncaster. This is the life. Through Huntingdon station at full line speed! That'd be a place to take videos!

The East Coast main line seems to be signalled for a train every few minutes, and there are quite a few running too. It's almost like being on a spark! Which, incidentally, we are... an electric loco hauled (or propelled) high speed intercity train.

Stevenage, and we're ten minutes down now... I really thought we'd have caught up some time, we were on or around 200km/h for most of the trip. Ah well.

The station here is laid out like Burnley with the high speed lines down the middle (although all four platforms are bi-directionally signalled). It's actually quite grimy and in need of refurbishment compared with most I've seen over here, almost as bad as our Loop stations... or Westall for that matter.

As I'm waiting for the Cambridge train a Class 365 goes by at full line speed. We just don't get sights like that in Victoria! Apart from trackside in RFR territory of course, but AC drive electric motors are so much awesomer than Cummins diesels.

So I get on my train and it's a 365 also. They look like suburban units that have been refurbed to do a semi-interurban job - the toilets are like on the Voyagers and the seats are high back and well padded. Also they have first class - whoopsy, change carriages Michael! The traction package is the same as on the 323s judging by the sound.

Just as we're getting to the junction for Cambridge we're overtaken on the down through line by an HST - I didn't get a chance to see whose but the nose is distinctive.

Cambridge is a weird station - one long platform with a station building and all, and a pair of dock platforms at each end. There's a new island platform being built (or maybe just refurbished) on the opposite side of the tracks from the long one.

As you exit the station, the first thing you notice is bikes - lots of bikes. The next thing is more bikes. And then a whole heap more. I don't think I've seen so many bikes in one place ever before. Think of the rows and rows of cars at the factory, off into the distance - or the Emirates tails at Dubai Airport. It's beyond belief!

So I find Charli and we take a walk around Cambridge. It's a very arty kind of town, judging by the shops - as a university town I'd have expected it to have an equal smattering of interests in engineering, business, law, medicine etc. Maybe those sorts of things aren't as evident.

Argh damn character limit... splittage.

Michael Angelico said...

I miss my train back to Buxton in time for tonight's show, argh. We start heading back to the station but I miss the train that will get me back for the Festival Club, double argh! Oh well, I have a nice sunburn so at least I'll look Australian for the rest of Buxton.

There are so many route options for getting from one side of the continent to the other. In fact I really don't know how the journey planner can cope. It tells me to go to Birmingham and up the west coast (Pendolino territory :D) but at Peterborough I'm overcome with thirst so as the train's pulling in I do a trip plan and work out I can be 10 minutes later into Manchester Piccadilly (and still get the same Buxton train) if I jump off and go up the east coast line instead.

While I was waiting, a 91 and Mk.4 set went through at speed. It was just as loud (and awe-inpiring) as I'd imagined it. Unfortunately, once you see it there's no time to grab a camera. If it's not in your hand, you've missed the shot. But never fear, by hook or by crook is going to have some footage of high speed trains doing what they do best.

So here I am, dampened down for the night (with a private's baton in my knapsack) on a Mk.4 train, stealing their power as well as their wifi, and once again enjoying 200km/h running. There's a sensation of speed, like being on a freeway but more so - but there's a smoothness which suggests we could be doing 300 or 400 if we wanted to, rather like a clear soprano voice which gives the impression there's another few octaves of range available. That's something you don't get on a car, or a plane taking off, or a V/Locity or XPT either. Did I ever mention how much I love gunricing?

I don't think anything else exciting is going to happen today so I'll sign off. See you tomorrow!

David said...

Re semaphores at night:
1. kerosene or electric lamps behind the spectacle plates. VR had to light the kerosene every night and check the light globes weekly.
2. Sometimes fitted with reflective stripes over the semaphore blade