Uneventful trip to Stockport. Hello Pendolino! There's a cute four year old in the seat opposite me, so making funny faces takes up whatever portion of the journey isn't spent enjoying 200km/h and tilting action.
Watford Junction - the end of the London Overground network. Quite a nice looking station, with expanses of clean concrete and natural lighting. The Overground departs from a set of four dock platforms, which must be fun in peak time - but a glance at the timetable shows it only runs every 20 minutes. As a matter of fact it runs every 20 minutes all through the day, only dropping to half-hourly after 10pm and before 6am. That's pretty good! They could almost unify their timetable and run the same times every day, but I suspect there's some operational reason they can't because on the corner of peak time the timetable varies by a couple of minutes or so.
So I take a Class 378 spark to Willesden Junction. Brand new Bombadier metro stock, with mainly longitudinal seating and a few bum racks near the doors. The carriage ends are even more open than our Siemens trains, I guess that's what happens when there's another few years of technology in the design.
Willesden Junction is a mess - upper and lower stations angled about 45 degrees apart, with walkways going in unusual directions (and on a gradient to make the station seem like it's on three and a half levels) and a bus bay buried in a corner. The main lines go past the Overground station on both sides, with a workshop for Overground trains in the mix as well. I head for the footbridge over the main lines and arm my camera for action.
The howling sound of the Pendolino actually doesn't carry upwards all that well. I get a few videos of them and a few more of Class 350s but I'm not satisfied. I try again from the bus bay but the blackberries muffle the sound. Mmmm, blackberries. And the fence is only 5 foot high so I can reach over it. The natives here must all be fairly short because there's hardly any ripe berries close to the fence but heaps just at the end of my reach. That was Lunch Mk.1.
I head back to the station and get an Underground service back towards Watford Junction. The Underground and Overground share tracks as far as Harrow & Wealdstone where the tube service terminates. Tube stock is quite something! The first thing you notice is that it's semi-circular - like the tunnels. The next thing is that from a full height platform I can look over the top of it! The doors open and it's a step DOWN into the train. Fun! The doors curve along with the body of course, which means even quite tall people can get in and out without too much trouble.
So I get on board and suddenly feel right at home. It's non-air conditioned, and the motor sound comes through quite clearly. It reminds me of a W tram or a Tait! I wonder how old this stock is...
It accelerates quite nicely too, although it's somewhat jerky. That's probably the effect of the third rail system, every set of points means a change of circuit which cuts the motors momentarily. I wonder why third rail still exists... does it have any advantage over overhead wires apart from lock-in?
So, Harrow & Wealdstone. It has platforms for all the intercity lines but there are regular announcements saying "The train now approaching Platform 3 is not scheduled to stop here. Please stand well clear." Thanks for the heads-up, I'll get my camera ready. WHOOSH! A Pendolino goes past in less than four seconds (as the camera proves). Ten cars each 20m long, do the maths. This is awesome!
After about 15 minutes a staff member comes up and says "I saw you taking photos". Oh dear here it comes... hey wait no it doesn't! She's very nice about it, and just lets the station master know that I'm not from the press, I'm a perfectly harmless transport enthusiast from Australia. The station master's fine with it too, he just tells me the rules (stay behind the yellow lines, no flash, don't obstruct passengers) and we end up chatting about the operation of a metro service. I love this!
Eventually I have enough videos of trains running at 200km/h through the platforms so I get a 378 back to Watford Junction. I get myself some Lunch Mk.2 and sit down to eat it, and then an announcement comes over the PA that there's been a power failure... or a signalling failure. One of those. But trains are disrupted and intercity passengers are recommended to take the Overground to Euston instead. Uh-oh... what's this going to do to my Cinderella Hour? I'd better find out. Talk to you soon.