East Midlands Three in Seven (Day One)



Let me warn you right now: This is not going be a riveting read, especially if you don’t know me and you’ve found this blog by accident. I don’t even really expect any of my family & friends to really get much out of it. Its here primarily for me – or future me – to refer back to whenever.


The basis of this mini-adventure is an East Midlands Three Days in Seven Rover rail ticket. You can read all about it here.

Oakham Level Crossing


Meanwhile, what happened on Thursday follows after the ‘more’ break. It was written ‘on the fly’ and edited to try and make it a little more coherent after the fact. Consequently the tense may be all over, and you’ll have to put up with a bit of my ‘inner vernacular’!



Day One – Thursday


It’s a lovely day for it, but I’ve got my coat tucked into my bag just in case. The forecast suggests it may get quite cool later. 


Here is the plan for today:

  • Willington 10:25 – Nottingham 11:03
  • Nottingham 11:34 – Grantham 12:37
  • Grantham 12:49 – Doncaster 13:24
  • Doncaster 14:27 – Lincoln 15:15
  • Lincoln 16:00 – Peterborough 17:18
  • Peterborough 17:52 – Leicester 18:46
  • Leicester 19:01 – Derby 19:23
  • Derby 21:10 – Willington 21:17

The Cardiff – Nottingham (1M92) is reported two minutes late at Wichnor as I got to the platform. Eight other prospective passengers had joined me by the time it arrived.

Willington station


We were a few minutes late into platform 6 at Derby. I saw the platform staff hand the driver what I guessed was a Special Stop Order and there was talk of the Matlock – Newark having been cancelled. Indeed, a few seconds later, the errant Class 156 trundled by on the goods lines, limping into Etches Park to be fixed.  The additional stop was at Attenborough — I was a little miffed it wasn’t Spondon… a CrossCountry service stopping there would be something out of the ordinary. The Liverpool – Norwich I’m due to catch is seven down approaching Chesterfield so there’s time for a coffee at Nottingham. 


11:06 arrival at Nottingham. I walked over to the Starbucks on Station Street but I’ve got to say I’ve had better coffee – it was verging on tepid. 


Back to the station. It may nearly be October but there’s a gathering gaggle of folk with their cases waiting for the Skeggy train which follows the Norwich. That train (1L07) was still seven down approaching Nottingham. When it arrived I boarded the opulence that is an East Midlands Trains Class 158. It was moderately loaded but with plenty of space at the front. Only three minutes late departing. 


Interesting to note that Rectory Junction and Bingham signal boxes are still standing. As is Bottesford West. 


The Allington Junction area is like the land that time forgot; 60 foot track panels and GNR or LNER mileposts.


Two minutes early at Grantham. [I’m not sure where I got the 12:37 from in the above timing – 1L07’s scheduled arrival is 12:08].


Grantham station


The 12:19 Virgin EC to York (1N83) is running 10 late. May jump on that rather than wait for the Hull train at 12:49 as planned. If it makes up a few minutes may get to Doncaster in time to jump in the 13:04 to Lincoln and get ahead on my schedule. Or not?


It was a 12:28 departure from Grantham but it was ten late again leaving Newark. It’s looking like an hour & a half in sunny Doncaster. 


Leaving Newark I had a flash of inspiration and got off at Retford at 12:54. Option 1 is get the aforementioned Hull train as far as Doncaster (dep here 13:09 – arrive at 13:23). Option 2 is to get the Scunthorpe to Lincoln (2P67) from here at 13:25 which arrives at Lincoln at 14:04. This makes so much more sense – I hadn’t realised the Lincoln trains from Doncaster go via Sheffield to get here. That shows my ignorance and/or lack of proper planning for this trip! [The service I originally planned is actually an EMT direct service  taking 45 mins. It’s  Northern’s Scunthorpe to Lincolns which go round much of South Yorkshire in the process]. Off to platform 4 I go. Though it’s currently five down, eta 13:30, so no rush. Good plan. 


There is an extensive display of photographs illustrating Retford & district’s railway history in the windows on platform 1, done by Bassetlaw Railway Society which is a really pleasing touch. 

Retford station


Aargh, a Pacer – maybe not such a good plan. Nicely refurbished inside (a lot of effort and expense on an electronic sign whose sole purpose is to say No Smoking) but still the world’s most uncomfortable ride! [Turns out this was the unique “Evolution”, a prototype for the refurbishment of Pacers. I stick with my opinion that anything can be done with the interior, the ride remains shockingly bad].


ETA Lincoln 14:04. New plan… 14:41 EMT Lincoln – Peterborough (2K39), arrive Peterborough at 15:59. 


Lincoln is not looking its best. The centre is being knocked around a lot. The new bus station (St Marks being old one!) has closed and is being redeveloped, as is an old market hall on Sincil Street (or maybe it was just ‘modern’ additions being removed?). Lunch took the form of a sandwich from the Co-op and on board the Peterborough train with ten minutes to spare.


Sincil Street, Lincoln


River WItham in Lincoln thumb 36cc8


A single Class 153 for the journey south. Joy. 


Lincoln station


It had clouded over by Sleaford. Most of the train emptied here. My phone battery became a bit of an issue suddenly – too many photos?. Good job I brought a reserve supply – no at-seat power since Virgin EC. 


The rolling countryside gives way slowly but surely to fenland. 


It’s been a day for cats by the line side and birds of prey perching on signals. 


Spalding is unrecognisable from the famous photos of the tulip excursions stabled all around. 

Spalding from the train


For all the insidious creep of axle counters, OD and modular signals throughout Lincolnshire, there seems to be no rush in sweeping away redundant signal boxes. Which is good.


Thinking ahead: Cut off to get to Derby in time for the last Willington train — 19:19 from Oakham. Brewery Tap?? Depart Peterborough at 16:52 or 17:52??


By 15:55 just north of Peterborough awaiting platform. Arrive 16:00 [or 15:59¾ according to Realtime trains — not bad compared with the 15:59 schedule].


The Brewery Tap (via Waitrose for a copy of Private Eye to read). Started with a delicious pint of Oakham Citra. Spent the time reading and rat watching (interesting creatures when safely outside and separated by a pane of glass). All accompanied by an excellent soundtrack (courtesy of Spotify, I guess) of contemporary soft rock. (One track I was moved to Shazam was by a band called Shinedown, of whom I have never heard). 

The Oakham Brewery Tap

(I’ll spare you the rat images!)


I finished off with a pint of Oakham JHB and left the pub at 17:10.


I headed for the Starbucks kiosk on the station but was disappointed that my request for a fresh brew coffee was answered with an Amercano. As I was ordering the service from Lincoln (that my original schedule mentions) arrived. So I’m now back on the published schedule. Until I grab an hour at Oakham, that is. 


Unsurprisingly the Stanstead – Birmingham CrossCountry service (17:52 off Peterborough) was very busy, with barely a spare seat. That didn’t stop the guy opposite me conspicuously occupy the aisle seat leaving the window seat only for those brave enough to asking to shift his inconsiderate arse over! He got off at Stamford, the first stop, where the train thinned out anyway.


I had pause for thought that here in 2016, after all the cutting edge signalling which has controlled most of my journey today, as we passed through Ketton, our safe progress relied on a Midland Railway lower quadrant signal! (albeit Midland only like “Trig’s brush”). [I think I am right in saying that until leaving Peterborough and passing Uffington & Barnack, I had been under the control of just Derby PSB, East Midlands SC, York SC and Peterborough PSB. Oh, I forgot Allington, I think that’s still going?].


Arrived at Oakham at 18:20. Time for a few snaps of the Airfix kit (also known as Oakham Crossing signal box) in the sunset – and a leisurely pint of Ten Fifty in the Grainstore Brewery. 

Oakham Crossing


Darkness was falling as I left the Grainstore. A few twilight shots of Oakham as the New Street train arrived a couple of minutes late (I see a pattern for the day?). A change at Leicester with a   little under half an hour for a Sheffield train to Derby (allegedly on time!). Amused me to see the St. Pancras to Lincoln service — calling at Collingham.


Ha! The Sheffield train (1F65) was three late leaving Leicester! It’s an HST though, which is a bonus – the opposite end of the ride comfort scale to the Pacer earlier. 


The last Willington stopper from Derby at 21:10. Old faithful – right on time. For I think pretty much the first time ever on this service, I actually had my ticket checked. He must be new!?


I was the only passenger to get off. Resisted the temptation of both the chip shop and the Dragon. 



Still To Come





  • Willington 10:25 – Derby 10:36
  • Derby 11:16 – Sheffield 11:44
  • Sheffield 11:53 – Doncaster 12:33 [Northern service Lincoln – Adwick]
  • or Sheffield 12:24 – Doncaster 13:04 [Northern service Sheffield – Scunthorpe]
  • Doncaster 13:37 – Cleethorpes 14:41
  • Cleethorpes 15:37 – Grimsby 15:33
  • Grimsby 15:45 – Lincoln 16:40
  • Lincoln 17:26 – Nottingham 18:30 (option for a stop off in Newark)
  • Nottingham 20:40 – Willington 21:17




  • Willington 10:25 – Derby 10:36
  • Derby 10:42 – Stoke 11:33
  • Stoke 11:50 – Milton Keynes 12:46
  • Milton Keynes 13:22 – Bletchley 13:26
  • Bletchley 14:01 – Bedford 14:45
  • Bedford 15:04 – Leicester 15:46
  • Leicester 16:18 – Nuneaton 16:43
  • Nuneaton 16:54 – Tamworth 17:08
  • Tamworth 18:03 – Willington 18:20

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